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MLK Jr. "Letter From Birmingham Jail"
Transcript of MLK Jr. "Letter From Birmingham Jail"
In this paragraph, Martin Luther King Jr. expresses that there is no alternative for direct action because of the social injustices and "deep disappointments" that African Americans are facing. However, he explains that the people participating in the direct action are determined to participate non-violently. He ensures the clergymen that there will be no retaliation by explaining that the participants went through a process of "self-purification." He also explains his choice for direct action during the Easter season because it is a main shopping period and it will place pressure on the merchants for change.
In this paragraph, Dr. King emphasizes the fact that the men and women have delayed their action time and time again. It was delayed the first time for the mayoral election, to ensure their action may not cloud the democratic system in Birmingham. The second delay was for the Run-Off election. This was because the public safety officer, Mr. Eugene “Bull” Connor, gathered enough votes to be in the run-off. If Mr. Connor won, they feared an even worse relationship between the Negro and White communities. Also, they did not want their actions to cloud the issues of the election. Once again, they postponed action as they waited and hoped for improvement.
In the beginning of this paragraph, Martin Luther King Jr., addresses opposing questions and acknowledges that the opposition would call for negotiation, rather than direct action. However, Dr. King goes on to say that negotiation is the exact purpose of direct action. He explains that the tension brought about by action should not be feared because is the motivation needed for a society to confront change. Dr. King also expresses his disdain for violent tension. He explains that the only tension he supports is nonviolent tension necessary for growth. He alludes to Socrates and his belief that tension is needed in the mind in order for creativity and intellect to take place.
In this concise paragraph, Martin Luther King Jr., once again emphasizes that direct action will lead to negotiation. He says that he "concurs" with the call to negotiation. Thus, he unites his ideals with those of the clergymen. By doing this, he attempts "to live in monologue rather than dialogue." The conciseness of the paragraph can serve to illustrate this idea of "monologue" and unity. This shows that he wants to work with the clergymen, rather than against them, to achieve a common goal.
- Segregation and the need for Civil Rights.
Purpose- Preach against segregation and answer the concerns of critics of nonviolent direct action programs
In this paragraph, Martin Luther King Jr. directly addresses the opposition's notion that the direct action is untimely. He acknowledges that many people are wondering why he didn't give the new administration time to act. However, he explains that the new administration would not be any more willing to act than the old one. This is because Albert Boutwell, although more gentle than Mr. Connor, is still a segregationalist. Therefore, in order for change and negotiations to take place, action and pressure are needed to promote change from the status quo.
1. Textual Evidence
: "Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change" (Paragraph 8).
: "As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us."
Analysis: Martin Luther King Jr. appeals to logic by explaining the reasoning behind taking direct action during Easter time. He shows his knowledge of economics and the topic through cause and effect. By taking action at this time, the nonviolent protests will be most successful.
2. Textual Evidence
: "Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily" (Paragraph 12).
: In this example, Dr. King presents an historical fact, appealing to logic. By doing this he shows the clergymen that action is needed to make groups change and help those that are marginalized. Therefore, emphasizing the necessity for his direct action to take place.
Through logic, Martin Luther King Jr. explains the thought process behind his direct action plan and why it is needed to effect change within the Birmingham communities.
Martin Luther King Jr. strengthens his credibility and that of the nonviolent direct action protestors. He does this by describing the qualities of the people involved in the nonviolent movements, namely the ability not to retaliate against overwhelming violence. Second, the ethos of the movement is shown through justifying their need to act.
1. Textual Evidence:
"Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self-purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?" "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?"
: In this example, Dr. King establishes credibility for himself and the direct action plan as a whole. By stating that he and his associates partook in a series of workshops, he shows that they are willing and able to carry out the plan without the use of violence. Therefore, establishing validity in the rest of his argument.
2. Textual Evidence
: "Individuals may see moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture, but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals."
: Dr. King establishes his credibility by referencing Reinhold Niebuhr. Niebuhr was an American theologian, ethicist, public intellectual, commentator on politics and public affairs, and a professor at Union Theological Seminary. Since Reinhold Niebhur was a religious individual, this reference shows the clergymen that Martin Luther King Jr. is also part of the religious community. It also backs up his main argument that people are not going to negotiate without the call for change established through direct action.
In this example, Martin Luther King Jr. appeals to the emotion of the clergymen. He describes how African Americans have faced discrimination and have been constantly disappointed. By doing this he appeals to the emotion of the clergymen, since they are holy men that are supposed to promote peace and equality.
2. Textual Example
: "My Friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure."
: The fact that Martin Luther King Jr. refers to the clergymen as "my friends" is an appeal to their emotions. By doing this he makes the clergymen take his next statement into consideration. Thus, he persuades them to see the importance of nonviolent action.
In the selected paragraphs (8-12), Martin Luther King Jr. makes appeals to emotion in the opening sentence of paragraph 8 and at the end of paragraph 12. This helps to solidify his argument. Appealing to emotion at the start and end makes the clergymen want to listen, and in turn strengthens Martin Luther King Jr's argument.
Rhetorical Arrangement Strategies
Rhetorical questions are found in numerous paragraphs of this selection:
In paragraph 8, Martin Luther King Jr. says, "...and we repeatedly asked ourselves: "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?" "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?"
Analysis: Here, Dr. King uses rhetorical questions to establish ethos. He shows that he and his associates thoroughly prepared themselves for nonviolent direct action. The anaphora seen in the rhetorical questions places an emphasis on the extent of preparation and thought that was placed on the development of the direct action plan. Therefore, helping him establish a valid argument for the clergymen.
In paragraph 10, Martin Luther King Jr. says, "You may ask, "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?"
Analysis: In this series of rhetorical questions Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the opposition to direct action. He then answers the rhetorical questions explaining that direct action is needed to promote the negotiation that everyone wants.
In paragraph 12, Martin Luther King Jr. says, "Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?"
Analysis: This rhetorical question once again allows Martin Luther King Jr. to address the opposition and refute their argument. He does this by answering the question once again. He explains that the new administration is no more likely to act than the last one was because it is still controlled by a segregationist. Therefore, direct action is a necessity to stimulate change.
3. Textual Example
: "I therefore concur with you in your call to negotiation. Too long has our beloved South been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue."
: In this example, Martin Luther King Jr. uses an appeal to pathos to create a feeling of unity. By doing this he shows the clergymen that they are fighting for a common cause: to live peacefully in the
In paragraph 10, Dr. King makes an allusion to Socrates. He says, "Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the see for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood."
This allusion establishes ethos, or credibility for Martin Luther King Jr's argument. He uses Socrates' idea of "tension in the mind" as a metaphor for the tension that will come about in society as a result of direct action. Thus, he shows that despite its negative connotation, "tension" is not necessarily a bad thing. Also, the long elegant syntax of this sentence emphasizes the necessity of nonviolent direct action in order to bring about change. The imagery found at the end of the sentence ("dark depths" and "majestic heights") serve a similar purpose, creating vivid depictions of racism and prejudice that need to be ended.
In paragraph 12, Dr. King alludes to Reinhold Niebuhr. He says, "Individuals may see moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture, but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals."
This allusion once again establishes credibility. By referring to a religious man who led a moral life, Dr. King shows that he is also a man of faith. It also shows that a morally just man agrees with him. This makes the clergymen more likely to listen tentatively and openly to his argument.
In paragraphs 9 and 12, Martin Luther King uses effectual diction to display a respectable tone. He does this by introducing Eugene "Bull" Connor and Albert Boutwell by their full first names. He proceeds by referring to them as Mr. Connor and Mr. Boutwell, despite an obvious difference of opinion. This allows Dr. King to validly express his opposition to their segregation policies, but also maintain respect so that he does not lose credibility. Furthermore, the fact that Dr. King adds the nickname "Bull" when introducing Mr. Connor implies a negative connotation, reminding the clergymen that this man is harsh and unwilling to compromise.
Personal Overall Evaluation
Overall, we felt that Martin Luther King Jr. successfully uses rhetorical strategies to achieve his purpose. He conveys his disdain for segregation and the necessity for direct action in order to end it. Throughout this section he successfully uses all three rhetorical appeals: logos, ethos, and pathos. He appeals to logos to explain the thought process behind his direct action plan and why it is needed to effect change within the Birmingham community. Throughout his argument, Dr. King also makes appeals to pathos. He brings emotion into his argument, making his audience, the clergymen, more willing to listen since they are holy men who strive for justice and peace. He also uses pathos to create a feeling of unity and a tone of friendship. In our opinion this allows him to persuade the clergymen to listen to his argument and take it into consideration.
Personal Overall Evaluation 2
Throughout this section, Dr. King's strongest appeal seems to be ethos. He efficiently and successfully establishes his credibility so that his audience will listen to his argument tentatively. He does this by explaining that the people participating in his direct action protests have been through workshops in order to ensure total nonviolence and no retaliation. In our opinion, this is the basis to Martin Luther King Jr's whole argument. He needs to establish this in order for the clergymen to consider the rest of what he has to say. He continues to establish his credibility through the use of allusions, showing that other intelligent and holy people agree with what he is saying. We believe another strong point in Dr. King's argument is his acknowledgment of the opposition. He addresses the opposition through rhetorical questions and then continues by answering these questions, consequently refuting the opposing argument. We saw this as extremely effective in getting his point across that direct action is necessary and beneficial to the Birmingham community and Civil Rights as a whole. Thus, we found Martin Luther King Jr's argument, writing style, and rhetorical strategies to be extremely successful and persuasive in achieving their purpose.
"Too long has our beloved South been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue"
"Are you able to take blows without retaliating?"
"As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us."
The movie "Glory Road" parallels Martin Luther King Jr's ideas presented in paragraphs 8-12. The black basketball team faces discrimination, segregation, and racist acts. However, in spite of these difficulties, they resist retaliation and violent actions. They prove their point and their worth through nonviolent means: hard work and winning. In doing so, they overcome racial barriers and set a precedent for generations to come.
By Kailtlyn Joong, Madison McGrath and Kevin Leddy
By Kaitlyn Joon Madison McGrath and Kevin lEDDY
By Kaitlyn Joong, Madison McGrath, and Kevin Leddy
By Kaitlyn Joong, Madison McGrath, and Kevin Leddy