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"Letter from Birmingham Jail" Analysis

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Sarah Garey

on 27 February 2014

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Transcript of "Letter from Birmingham Jail" Analysis

Thesis: Dr. Martin Luther King, proves the validity of the civil rights movement through allusion and historical references.
Paragraph 47
"Letter from Birmingham Jail" Analysis
Paragraph 50
Establishes Ethos- "fellow clergyman, Christian brother."

"Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty." (50)

Finishes with pathos and ethos- peace and brotherhood.

Thesis: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. concludes his letter by appealing to the emotions of the clergy men and reiterating his goal.
Paragraphs 48 & 49
Paragraph 45
Paragraph 46
The Rhetorical Situation
The Context:

The Subject:
Responding to the Injustice in Birmingham
accusations and criticism.
The Audience:

The Purpose:
The clergymen

Convince the clergymen
that his protests were at the
right time and did not do anything wrong.

The Speaker:

The Genre:
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By Tiffany G., Jackson P., Mikey G., Jordan M., Ricki G.

THESIS: Dr. King effectively crafts his counter argument to inform the Clergymen that wrongfully intended acts of good keep society in its bubble and it is his job to provide this insight to the public. He does this by
1.) Directly addressing the clergymen’s claim that the Birmingham police behaved admirably
2.) Presenting his own perspective and refuting his opponent's statements through logos.
3.) Successfully alluding to a well-recognized and admired man.

"with the noble sense of purpose, with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes, the life of a pioneer" (47)

"Standing up for...the most sacred values...thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formation of the Constitution and the Deceleration of Independence" (47).
Thesis: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. persuades the clergymen that his demonstrations were necessary and important, through his masterful use of language.
Dr. king illustrates a long period of time passing, that could have been avoided and could of focused on his peaceful protest for finding equality for all men.
The Quote: "It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handing the
demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in
The Quote: "But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation.....I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands ....I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to...But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to..."

The Quote: "As T. S. Eliot has said: 'The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.'"
James Meredith
Dr. King alludes to the "real heroes" in the south. One such hero is James Meredith, a civil rights movement figure. He is most famous for attending the University of Mississippi.
Dr. Kings allusions to the people the United states were built on
"I have been tortured without and tormented within by the raging fires of tribulation... I have been forced to muster what strength and courage I have to withstand howling winds of pain and jostling storms of adversity. But as the years have unfolded the eloquently simple words of Mother Pollard have come back again and again to give light and peace and guidance to my troubled soul, 'God's gonna take care of you.'"
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Mother Pollard Influence
Dr. King begins his closing by addressing the unethical treatment of the Birmingham Police Department. He uses
to illustrate his disdain for the "protectors",
to intensify the reality of their "service", and
to instill the wrongness of it all. It is his last attempt at bringing to light the dangers of inaction and convincing the clergymen to reconsider their accolades for their hometown PD.
"You warmly commend the Birmingham police force for keeping 'order' and 'preventing violence'."
King's use of quotation marks is ironic language and is a direct attack on the idea that the Birmingham police are serving the people of Birmingham. In fact, they are the hand and tool of segregationists and King addresses this fallacy by making simple that they aren't doing what they are being congratulated for doing (ie "keeping order" and "preventing violence").
"I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if i had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write a long letter, think long thoughts and pray long prayers? ( Irony)
"If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood"
Dr. king uses : logos, repetition, irony
"...if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into
Negroes... their
treatment of Negroes..."
King vividly illustrates the cruelty of the Birmingham PD by using imagery that appeals to the emotions of the clergymen and all other readers. The scene of a German Shepherd biting into the flesh of an innocent is aroused in the minds of those that read this.
King explicitly states that the protestors are unarmed, and that the treatment they receive is ugly and inhumane.
"...if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes... if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young Negro boys..."
The repetitive language King uses serves two purposes:
the unjust way the Negro community is being regarded, and
that the clergymen don't have first hand knowledge of the situation at play. The anaphora creates a rhythm in which the words are heard, making it so they stand out to the reader. Dr. King is making it so the reader MUST acknowledge that Negroes are being treated badly. The anaphora also makes the clergymen realize that they aren't in jail, or on the streets witnessing the sadistic treatment of Negro people.
Full transcript