King Jr., Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 213-29. Print.
This is a passionate letter written by former American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Junior. The letter addresses and responds to several issues thrown at him by white clergymen about the nature of his civil rights organizations and its conduct. King penned down the letter to defend his organization and its use of the “non violence” philosophy in its fight against racial inequality and injustice among the black community in Birmingham, Alabama. The letter is additionally an appeal to all American people, both black and white as well as the religious, social and political community to shun desegration and encourage equality and solidarity among all citizens. King expresses his utmost disappointment with the Alabama clergy’s criticism of his leadership. He further expresses his comprehension or understanding of why the oppressed people must rise and resist oppression and finally, he talks about his deep faith and belief in the elementary decency of all American citizens. King demonstrates massive literacy prowess in this particular essay as exhibited by his mastery of several rhetoric persuasion strategies. These strategies are crucial in successfully influencing those who criticize his philosophical views on the issue of civil disobedience. His eloquent appeal to the emotional, logical and most remarkably, spiritual and moral side of his target audience make this letter one of the most intrigue literary pieces of the last century.
Thoreau, Henry David. “Civil Disobedience.” A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 177-97. Print.
In this essay, Henry David Thoreau makes a critical evaluation of the federal government stating that it is simply an artificial institution that is created by the authoritative or powerful people in the society. He however acknowledges that this institution is believed to fulfill a certain purpose and is therefore very likely to remain a crucial feature of the American life. He asserts that the government is essentially an institution that hinders accomplishment of the goals for which it was formed to achieve in the first place. Thoreau explicitly denies that he wants to abolish government, all he wants is a better government that fulfils its role and serves people right. In light of these circumstances, Thoreau states, “every man make known what kind of government would command his respect as one step towards obtaining it”. This can be done through civil disobedience, which Thoreau believes to be a strategy through which one can articulate his or her beliefs. Thoreau however lists several emotions that should accompany this civil disobedience and they include having a moral conscience and rightness sense. In the essay, Thoreau also introduces the American people right of revolution. After constructing the image of government as a tool or machinery that has no guarantee to do enough good acts tot counter balance its evil acts, Thoreau urges people to rebel. He argues that reform opponents are actually not the far away politicians but are rather the ordinary people who allow themselves to be oppressed by government system and who cooperate with it. Thoreau makes a claim that withdrawing support to the federal government through civil disobedience like non-payment of taxes will prompt the government to change its ways.
Douglass, Frederick. “From Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.”
A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 159-70. Print.
This is a literary masterpiece written by Frederick Douglass exploring his experiences during the slavery era. It tells the story of Douglas as a young enslaved black man coming into moral and social consciousness through disobedience of his slave masters and his secretive learning to reading. Douglass great determination to escape illiteracy emboldens him to resist his slavery situation, escape and finally achieve freedom. After his escape from slavery, he becomes a popular leader and activists of anti slavery as well as women’s rights in America. The early parts of this essay illustrate Douglass early life on a slave plantation and the brutality he witnesses there. Douglass explains in detail the conditions of living that he together with other slaves are forced to live under and endure. For instance, he talks about rapes by slave masters on black women and constant whippings and torture. He also describes the mediocrity of Christian slave owners who use the religion to justice the slavery institution. The rest of the follows Douglass youth life and his continuing disgust and impatience with the slavery system. He describes how one of his slave master’s wives introduces him to the alphabet and how his desire to become literate grows. Eventually, Douglass is able to save enough money to help him escape from his slave masters and move to the North where abolitionist movements are becoming more fierce and stronger in their agitation for slavery. Eventually, Douglass becomes famous author and an abolitionist of slavery.
Jacobus, Lee A. A World of Ideas: Essential Readings for College Writers. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2010. Print.