Rhetorical Analysis Of Martin Luther King's Letter To Birmingham

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Martin Luther King Jr. rarely bothered to answer to the criticisms of his work. He even states that, if he were to try to respond to all the the letters full of grievances and condemnation others feel towards his ideas, his secretaries would have no time for anything else, nor would he have any time to get any constructive work done. That is, until he was confined to the vapid monotony of the cell in Birmingham jail, that he decided to ponder a letter sent to him by eight Alabama clergymen, who censured his nonviolent campaign and urged him to leave the battle for racial equality to the courts. King, in response, drafted his most powerful and extensive letter against social injustice that shed light on the atrocities taking place in Birmingham,…show more content…
Moreover, King pulls together some very important points in his letter. He refutes all the points made by the clergymen, stating that waiting for the courts to handle everything has never worked in the past. In his words, “this ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never’. We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied’”(p. 264). In his eloquent and composed writing, he not only manages to address their criticisms and answer with indisputable facts and stunning rhetoric, but also helps elevate his cause. King wrote a compelling defense of his nonviolent campaign and incited a rallying cry to the end of social injustice. His work in this letter was just as powerful and relevant as it is today, decades later. To determine whether or not the title of this work fits its message, one must first examine what it is that landed King in Birmingham jail. He states that he went to Birmingham in the first place, because, simply put, there is injustice there. As King emphasises, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (pg. 262). He proclaims that Birmingham is the most thoroughly segregated city in the country, with its ugly record of brutality being kept no secret. King arrived in…show more content…
But aside from what was explicitly mentioned in the text, it is possible King had another target audience. The clergymen writing this letter to King can also be described as what he refers to as “the white moderate”. He states that the white moderate is someone who prioritizes “civility” and “order” over justice. Someone who would choose a “negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice”(267), as King describes. It goes without saying that none of these people protesting want to be abused, beaten, arrested and even killed, just because they were peacefully marching. Of course it is preferable that they stay safe and “leave the battle for racial equality to the courts”, as the clergymen say. But it would be beyond presumptuous to make these statements and yet fail to understand what circumstances brought about this strong desire for change, what made these people need to go out and protest for their equal rights. As King states time and time again, they can no longer just sit back and wait. Change will only come about if the people’s voices are a catalyst for equality. This is what the white moderate fails to understand, and they are the people King is trying to get through to in this letter. Regardless of who King intended to reach with his statement, A Letter From
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