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Letter from a Birmingham Jail Analysis and Plot

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In this letter, Dr. King successfully claimed that he will not stop revolting until all black people have equal rights by effectively appealing to logos, pathos, and ethos. This was inspired by the letter called A Call For Unity, which is a statement by Alabama clergymen addressing the protests led by Dr. King. In this statement the clergymen wanted all the protests to end even though they were peaceful, saying that the protests wouldn’t solve anything and that all this should be solved in court. The clergymen even went as far to say that law enforcement handled them in a “calm manner” and that they should be allowed to keep protecting the city. They wanted the black and white community to work together in solving the issues through the courts. This letter from the clergymen led to a response from Dr. King that would be recorded forever in history.

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Throughout history for things both perceived as good or bad, the same three persuasion techniques have always been used. Both Dr. King and his would-be silencers appealed to logos, pathos, and ethos in order to try and persuade their audience. In A Call For Unity the clergymen appealed to the logical side of the audience in trying to make them go the non-agitative route in achieving equality for the races by the courts. In Letter from a Birmingham Jail even though King used appealed a lot to logos, he also appealed to pathos mostly to convince the audience towards following his movement for equality and passionately turned even the moderates over to his cause. This really shows how impacting using the three persuasive devices can be in anything whether it be calming down a movement or urging for an uprising.

A Call For Unity is a document where less radical clergymen are urging Dr. King to use more “lawful” strategies in seeking change, such as through the courts and not through protests. Their appeal to logos is even stated flat out in the quote “an appeal for law and order and common sense”, showing that they are trying to pacify the audience through logical reasoning. They also try to gain credibility by starting the letter introducing themselves as the clergymen, which appeals to ethos and tries to gain the trust of the audience through their position. The approach of the eight clergymen is mostly form a logical standpoint where they state facts and issues calling for “negotiation of racial issues”. By reading the letter it can be inferred that the purpose of this document is to end the so-called civil unrest being caused by Dr. King and his movement. The audience of this document are the followers of King and the body of the church. As shown by the effects of Dr. King’s letter, the clergymen weren’t too successful in their appeal.

Dr. King’s letter is one of history’s best organized documents that appeals to every persuasive device. The letter starts with an emotional appeal to pathos by King saying, “while confined here in the Birmingham city jail” and an appeal to ethos by portraying the others as his “fellow clergymen”. Martin Luther King, Jr. even degrades them a bit in appealing to logos like when he said that if he responded to “all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other”. Dr. King wanted to stand for equality in all states and he stated that he couldn’t “sit idly by in Atlanta” and not do anything about the injustices in Birmingham. King even laid out his 4 steps in a nonviolent campaign in a very logical manner that showed the audience why he was right to address injustices and his process. He goes on to end the letter in the most respectful and inspiring manner using a strong appeal to pathos saying, “one day the south will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best.”

In conclusion, to deliver a message in the most effective way it is necessary to use the three persuasive devices. A Call For Unity uses these devices for pure logical persuasion, Letter from a Birmingham Jail analysis  uses these devices in an emotional response stating why these acts are necessary and urging a call to action to resolve the injustices. It can be seen that even though King and the clergymen have different ways to reach their goal, they use the same exact devices to convince the audience. King’s response to the clergymen turned out to be a historical event that set the precedent for major political activists to use the three devices, and this shows how important logos, pathos, and ethos are in our society. 

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