The Message of Martin Luther King Jr. in His Letter From Birmingham Jail

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Martin Luther King, Jr. has always been known to be an extremely influential individual. Where people where scared to talk, he talked. At a time where racism was immensely prevalent, voices needed be heard. People were killed, families separated, injustice committed. These gruesome activites are addressed by King, Jr, in his Letter to Birmingham Jail. His letter directed to eight white clergy men who accused him of being an extremist. His essay spends time defending protests, and arguing against racism, and injustice in America. As one can imagine this is a very noble move of King to write such a robust letter to very powerful officials. His tone is immensely passionate addressing criticism from every angle.

His smart use of rhetoric, and appealing to emotion however, demonstrate his knowledge of the situation. While the demands in his arguments are strong, his approach is more subtle. King employs the use pathos, ethos, and logos in his letter. The strongest however is pathos. His appeal to emotion is a strong one, and can touch anyone reading it. The rhetorical strategies of Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrates the power of appealing to emotion and reaching a wide range of audience despite adversity.

Despite the huge adversity king risks with writing this essay, he takes a smart risk. King wastes no time in his essay. He lets the audience know exactly what he wants and what the point is of the essay from the start. He shows this by stating: “But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here” (204). King isn’t in Birmingham jail for no reason, he is here on a mission. In this mission he wants to accomplish the adversity that is going on. Spefically, with racism and injustice. He makes this clear. He is not flirting around the point; he makes it extremely clear. He is here because of “injustice” (204). The rhetorical strategy of the first quote is clear to get to his point. In a way, this is like an eye-opener in the essay. It ignores any fluff, and goes directly to the problem at hand. This is an extremely smart move by King because he knows the clergy men reading it are not looking for his best interest. So if he catches their eye, it will only force them to keep reading.

Martin Luther King, Jr. wants to make sure individuals know injustice affects everyone. He makes sure to be specific in the essay, but at the same time reach a broad audience. For example, he states forthrightly, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United Sates can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds” (204). In this quotation King demonstrates that injustice does not only effect African Americans, but the nation as a whole. This has to make any reader ponder what he is saying. Because if injustice is a threat for everyone, actions need to be made. Obviously, changes can not be made with one letter, but it can make strides.

Cite this paper

The Message of Martin Luther King Jr. in His Letter From Birmingham Jail. (2023, May 13). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-message-of-martin-luther-king-jr-in-his-letter-from-birmingham-jail/

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