Letter from a Birmingham Jail
Freedom is deserved by all colour, age, ethnicity, orientation, gender should not be a restraint. Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. felt this way during his life in the times of segregation. He peacefully protested his thoughts and was arrested for it. Then his acts were judged by a group of white clergymen. They questioned the Negroes’ choice to break the law rather than wait for change in a letter they wrote to a local news editor. In response to this judgement Doctor King Jr. wrote his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”.
He was able to utilize several different rhetorical strategies in order to explain why they can no longer wait, create a poignant diction, and to persuade others to see the reality of segregation. Being a pastor and a well known civil rights activist during the time of segregation puts that much more force, that much more of a yreality behind Doctor King Jr’s words. By far, the easiest and one of the most compelling forces within “A Letter From a Birmingham Jail” is the imagery created by Doctor King Jr. Doctor King Jr. goes on to list seeing “… icious mobs lynch… mothers and fathers… drown your sisters and brothers… hate-filled policemen curse, kick, and even kill… ” Then mentions having to explain to his six year old daughter that she cannot go to the new amusement park simply because it is “… closed to colored children… ” And having to come up with an answer when his five year old boy asks “Daddy, why do the white people treat the colored people so mean? “.
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Simply by mentioning events and the involvement of children not even over the age of ten Doctor King Jr. as put an image in ones head. He has attempted to create said image in a way that allows the reader to try to ‘walk in his shoes’. Simply because people find it easy to say wait when they are just observers rather than the one involved. These situations are described in such a way that those with the “coldest of hearts” might feel a surge of sympathy. This sympathy is caused by the pathos, which is one of the main rhetorical arguments that Doctor King Jr. was able to use in order to emphasize his point.
He puts the thought of being “… plagued with inner fears and outer resentments… ” and speaks of waiting for “… God-given rights… “. Going back to the use of his children and his role of a father, Doctor King Jr. appeals to those with children, who want the best for their children, who want their children to always feel as if they belong. Then he puts the idea of a child’s world being distorted with bitter thoughts, a child’s sky turning grey due to the ignorance of the white towards the coloured.
As he continues his dictation and tone change to really emphasize his anger, and his annoyance, and his sadness caused by the bitterness of the white, who’d never know what it was like to be in his place. He calls upon the words of the Christian faith saying “Love your enemies, bless them as they curse you… ” and religion appeals to anyone who shares that religion. But hand in hand with Doctor King Jr. ‘s use of pathos is logos. He appeals to the morals of man using The Bible to support his arguments.
He appeals to logic of man by discussing the lack of self-respect and sense of being the Negroes had due to the segregation. Doctor King Jr. brings forth the dark side of segregation, the side the Whites chose to ignore, knowing it’d should make them rethink their morals. He goes to say that: “Several months ago our local affiliate here in Birmingham invited us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program… We readily consented and when the hour came we lived up to our promises… I am here because I have basic organizational ties here”.
It is as if he is asking his reader, ‘can we break our promise? Can we ignore our affiliate organization when they are in need? ‘ To break the promise and ignore someone who is in need is immoral. It is not what a man of God should do. He goes to further question their morals by proclaiming that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. ” Meaning that treating the Negroes in such an unjust manner it threatens their very freedom, not just in Birmingham but through out the United States. Therefore the peaceful protest that he engaged in was necessary to protect justice.
Doctor King Jr. also refutes the statement made by the clergymen about how African American people should wait until the right time to gain their right. He does this by exclaiming to the reader that“This ‘wait! ’ has almost always meant ‘never’… we have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights”. He asks his reader that has 340 years not long enough for African American to wait? Shall they wait any longer? After this long waiting time, it seems for them that the word wait equals never. So if he doesn’t do it now, someone will do it anytime in the future.
He says, “Actually time is neutral. It can be used either destructively or constructively”. He uses this sentence to tell the people that tell him to wait any longer that time has nothing to do with someone’s struggle for human rights. Neutral. It is human who decided, what is timely and what is untimely. ” Overall, Martin Luther King, Jr. did a great job of explaining his reasons why they can no longer wait, create a poignant diction, and to persuade others to see the reality of segregation to his reader through the use of rhetoric.