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A Duty to Fight for Justice in "Letter from Birmingham Jail" Rhetorical Analysis

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Near the beginning of the civil rights movement in America on April 12th,1963, there were right clergymen that have announced Dr. Martin Luther King protests in the streets should end they have created “violence and hatred”. In Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” rhetorical analysis  he highlights that he has a duty to fight for justice without the use of violence. King uses rhetorical appeals, provides examples and personal anecdotes, and a strong use of literary devices. King successfully conveys his message to his fellow clergymen and people of the United States that they should have known better than addressing criticism against him.

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King begins by presenting his audience the use of appeal to logic in his letter, King introduction of his letter is how he is presenting ethos. He mentions that he is president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was an organization that has been operating in every southern state. Since he uses the word “president” King uses it as he already had a status behind his name and since people would praise him for his great achievements, he was a leader with great desires and powers. Also, he specifies and uses the “Great Man” Jesus Christ himself. Overall, he persuades his audience what he wants to bring is a huge change. This change he brought is big enough to make it into books and influences enough to get other people to recognize.

Dr. King was also able to pull his readers attention by describing the discrimination and terror that he has experienced at his stay in Birmingham. King uses a description to make a clearer picture that the Negro community is experiencing only unfair treatment in the streets of Birmingham as we know, during this period the organization of the Ku Klux Klan referred to as the “KKK” have terrified the African American community by brutally beating and killing those that came in their way or would be present at the wrong place and time. “There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs the community… it’s ugly record of brutality is widely known”. As he goes on, he gives another visual representing to his audience of the streets and foreshadows how the streets would be with a violent protest and if there is no action done to avoid this cause then a great risk of violence would be brought to his people. “many streets in the south would, convinced flowing with blood”. King presenting the importance of his ideas and understandings it gave his audience his perspective on the event and went into depth with experience by presenting his visuals and emotions which benefitted his case and made his claim reliable at the fact he wants to eliminate violence and make the community peaceful.

To make firm his argument, King uses a great number of rhetorical devices in his letter. Dr. King provides the use of imagery in his letter to allow the reader to have a visual in their mind of the maltreatment the people when through without having the opportunity to escape. “twenty million negro brothers … society”. Since king uses the word “airtight cage” he uses it as a form of exaggeration however actually meaning it since his community is forced to have the white to be privileged while African American would suffer without having the opportunity to have rights as the whites did, like if the African Americans were being represented as animals restricted away from their own home. King also uses a quote from Jesus Christ himself, he uses it to show that he wants his people to show no kind of anger to those that discriminated them to allow them to do what ever kind of action, but to show no fear. “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray … persecute you.” Since Dr. King used a great number of rhetorical devices in his letter his audience was presented with what he viewed, and his argument was provided to be more credible as he presented his personal experience which he physical has experienced the verbal and abuse of discrimination being present. King knew that if no one stood up and showed the strength that he had to show there would have been no hope in the community and the terror in the streets of Birmingham would have continued. With Kings use of imagery and quote, this gave his audience a better understanding of his argument and goal.

King establishes himself as a man with trustworthiness and proved to be an incredible image towards those that looked up at him. He wants his readers to know that the change he’s bringing is not for a short-term period, but a longer one. Also, King uses emotional appeals to reflect about human rights and mentions about the time he spent time in the Birmingham Jail which showed it was desperate to be there. King uses a great amount of logos to justify how the government was set up. Without his use of rhetorical devices, his audience would not be able to truly see the argument he was trying to provide, and this would have just made the civil rights movement as successful as it would have been. 

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