The Letter from Birmingham Jail

“Letter from Birmingham Prison” was written on April 16, 1963 by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was composed in action to the objections of white southern men.

This letter describes Martin Luther Kings’ actions and attempts to clarify and explain his protest for desegregation was required and definitely not untimely. The letter discusses why he remained in prison, the wrongful acts versus African Americans during the civil rights period, and using direct action to make a difference. Dr Kings’ letter stands as a modern classic of argumentation partly due to his use of Aristotle’s 3 rhetorical appeals: values, logos, and pathos.

First of Aristotle’s three rhetorical appeals is ethos. Principles is an appeal to the writer’s credibility. In Dr. Kings’ essay he utilized this appeal in this quote, “But considering that I feel that you are guys of real excellent will and that your criticisms are all the best set forth, I wish to try to answer your declaration in what I hope will be patient and affordable terms.” (p. 212). King felt it was necessary for non-violent method to be taken sp that interaction might open between the 2 races. Through non-violent action, crisis is formed and neighborhoods are required to challenge the concern.

King strongly thought the scenario needed to be discussed rather than left as it was. Aristotle’s 2nd appeal is logo designs. Logos is the appeal to logic. Martin Luther King was an exceptional speaker and attracted the rational side of most people. His essay took his knowledge and his talent of persuasion and summed up what he was working for and what he believed in. In Kings speech he composed this, “How does one figure out whether a law is simply or unjustified? A law is a manmade code that squares with the moral law or law of god. An unjustified law is a code out of harmony with the ethical law.” (p. 215-216).

He shows the distinction between simply and unjustified interesting the reader’s rational side. King believes that justice too long is justice rejected. Flexibility should be required by the oppressed because the oppressor never voluntarily gives it. Aristotle’s last rhetorical appeal is pathos. Pathos is the interest the reader’s emotion. In Kings Letter he composed this, “… when you all of a sudden discover your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six years of age daughter why she cant go to the amusement part that has just been promoted on television, and tears welling up in her eyes …” (p. 215).

This quote actually pulls on the reader’s feelings as he/she can visualize the little lady starting to weep. King’s letter was meant to erase the “clouds of racial prejudice” and bring some understanding of brotherhood to the neighborhoods throughout the Unites States. It is extremely hard for a moms and dad to need to inform their child they can not do something due to the fact that of the color of their skin. It is a pity that we were so hateful and little minded in the past, and all the suffering that had to take place before we lastly recognized that something so small as the color of your skin does not determine what type of person somebody is.

King believes the message of combination is universal and anybody who resides in the United States can not be considered an outsider regardless of race, color, religious beliefs, or creed. In “The Letter from Birmingham Jail” King utilized all three of Aristotle’s rhetorical appeals for classical argument. King utilized ethos to attract the writer’s trustworthiness; logos to appeal to the writer’s reasoning; and pathos to interest the writer’s emotion. Martin Luther King’s objectives have been met, however just to some level.

This writer sees his letter as an influential part of history and a dramatic event that changes the Civil Rights Motion for the much better. There is still hatred by some and fear which fuels hatred by others. Letter from Birmingham Prison tries to make racist people understand King’s desire for desegregation. He shows the function behind the demonstration and it’s urgency by various examples throughout the letter. It’s so regrettable that still today we have actually such small minded individuals even after Dr. Kings powerful letter.