Letter from Birmingham Jail.
A rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King Jr’s `Letter from Birmingham Jail`.
This paper discusses Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter written in response to a public statement composed by eight Alabama clergyman that questioned and denounced the recent human rights demonstrations by Negro citizens. It discusses how his writing, blended with logic and theory and with passion and force, rebuts the clergymen’s statement, informs the public and motivates the white moderates to act.
The letter begins with an introduction to Martin Luther King, Jr., to his task, and to his motivation. The first several paragraphs contain most of Kings ethos appeals, though he does scatter others throughout the letter. Ethos appeals help King establish his character and credibility, upon which he builds his argument. Such a foundation is essential for any effective argument. For example, King refers to his primary audience – the clergymen – as Afellow clergymen@ and Amen of genuine good will@ to establish a relationship of respect. Then, to bolster his own character, King mentions some of his credentials while he explains his presence in Birmingham – he is president of the Southern Leadership Conference, he works with over eighty-five affiliated organizations throughout the south, etc.