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Letter From a Birmingham Jail

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    In 1963 Martin Luther King wrote a letter from Birmingham jail which was addressed to all people to speak out about getting equality between blacks and whites. He appeals to his audience through many perspectives such as clergyman, a black man, and a civil rights activist. He gives an in depth position of the urgency to gain rights and how long it has already been on gaining the rights of equality. He conveys his message through the use of rhetorical strategies such as the use of logical appeals and emotional appeals. One way King conveys his message is through logical appeals. He says in his letter that, “Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness?” This shows how King is a very educated man and he uses a great person, Paul Tillich, to emphasize the values of equality and freedom.

    Additionally, he says “I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson, and the great-grandson of preachers.” His use of first person point of view shows how he has come from a whole family of people affiliated with the church. This ties to his perspective as a clergyman and how the Bible/church/God all show how people have to be treated equal and everyone should be free and together. He also portrays a proper tone and language as seen from his word choice; this shows how educated he is. Throughout the letter, King uses a logical appeal to gain justice for African Americans because they have been waiting for many years and they still have not received the freedom and equality that they struggle to gain.

    Another way King conveys his message is through emotional appeals. He says in his letter that “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was legal and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was illegal. It was illegal to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers.” It shows his respectful and truthful character. The quote highlights that King did the right thing and will continue doing it until he conquers equality even if the most brutal consequences face him. As a person who was influenced by Gandhi, he is a non-violent protester so his words show how he is attacking people to gain equality and freedom. His emotions show this too, in the way he structures his sentences and how he uses different words to emphasize to the audience the impact that must be gained.

    Throughout the letter he uses a desolate tone to show how African Americans are incapable of standing up for who they are and what they should gain. This leads him to change his tone towards the end to an urgent tone. He pleads out to get people to stand up for who they are and encourage people so that they can gain equal rights and African Americans can be free. Also, King says, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” He alludes to the Civil War and slavery. He emphasizes how African Americans have tried so hard to gain freedom and equality and the battles they had to go to and the ones that continue to go on to gain what they asked for many years ago.

    Based upon this King’s a Letter from a Birmingham jail was very moving and captivating. The audience and reader were connected on a personal level with the letter. King exclaims the urgency to gain equality and freedom because they have already waited too long to get what they want. He appeals to his audience through many perspectives such as clergyman, a black man, and a civil rights activist. He conveys his message of freedom and equality for African Americans through the use of rhetorical strategies such as the use of logical appeals and emotional appeals.

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    Letter From a Birmingham Jail. (2022, May 05). Retrieved from

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