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Transcript of Rhetorical Analysis
In 1963, while King was in Birmingham, Alabama, eight clergymen published a letter in the Post-Herald criticizing his presence and his strategies. From the cell where he was jailed for demonstrating, King responded by writing what has come to be known as "Letter from Birmingham Jail."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) King was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and grew up in the Ebenezer Baptist Church where his father and grandfather were ministers. He earned a BA at Morehouse College, a divinity degree at Crozer Theological Seminary, and a PhD in the theology at Boston University, all by the age of 26.
Eight clergymen that occasioned King's letter
Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to persuade the clergymen that he had every right to protest for the rights of his people as long as it was peaceful.
Appeal To Logos
"Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered."
Commentary- This quote uses facts to explain what an unjust law is and how inflicting a law on a minority makes a just law, unjust.
Appeal to Logos
"Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. It's ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case."
Commentary- This quote uses facts to show how Negroes are treated inside and outside of the court system. King says, "...these are the hard brutal facts..."
Appeal to Ethos
"I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church, I do not say this as one of those negative critics we can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen."
Commentary- This quote appeals to ethics because it shows that he is part of the church and will remain true to it just like the clergymen. The clergymen should fight for King's cause because they worship the same God.
Appeal to Ethos
"My dear fellow clergymen:"
Commentary- King asserts the clergymen by calling them "fellow." By addressing them fellow clergymen, it connects King to them by saying that they are both men of God.
Appeal to Pathos
"But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters....as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she cant go to the public amusement park...that is closed to colored children..."
Commentary- This quote appeals to pathos because it shows what the black community goes through due to segregation. It makes the reader feel sorry for the things that they've had to go through.
Appeal to Pathos
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well-timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation."
Commentary- This quote appeals to pathos by explaining to the reader that that people not affected by segregation don't understand that freedom isn't voluntarily given to everybody. King uses the phrase "painful experience" to describe the action of gaining freedom from the oppressor.
King was patient and understanding towards the clergymen, yet disapproving. He establishes common ground by saying that they all serve the same God and that all men were created equal under God.
"You may well ask, "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action... You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws."
Commentary- This quote is an example of diction because it uses words like "anxiety" and "willingness" to show the difference in views. This quote also shows that King understand the perspective of the clergymen.
"I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace... constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season."
Commentary- This quote shows how syntax in King's letter helped to stress his stand on the cause. By using extended sentences, the audience reads the letter faster, thus creating a sence of urgency.
"We were confronted with blasted hopes, and the dark shadow of a deep disappointment settled upon us."
This quote is an example of metaphor. King describes the deep disappointment of not achieving progress as a "dark shadow" settled upon the Negro community. This helps to set King's disapproving tone.
King's letter to the clergymen was very effective rhetorically. He appealed to ethos, pathos, and logos multiple times throughout the letter, used diction and syntax to show the reader that he believed the cause to be urgent, and used figurative language to emphasize his point of view.