Letter from Birmingham Jail
- King points out the unjust segregation laws and justifies the need to use nonviolent demonstrations to push the administration into negotiations. He is also refuting the accusation against him in his involvement in the demonstration. His approach is effective as it arouses the emotions of not only his accusers but the general public. King diverts slightly from his point of view when he begins giving the role of the church.
- King says that it is only logical to demonstrate to force the administration into negotiations since it had refused to negotiate when approached in a civilized manner. He uses logic to show why segregation laws were unjust. In emotional appeal, he points out a case where police allowed dogs to bite unarmed peaceful demonstrators and the case of black children being barred from going to fun town. King’s use of ethics is in demonstrating the denial of black citizens in getting in various hotels and having elder members of the society stand in buses for younger white individuals just because they are black.
- Repetition of the same phrase creates emphasis on the issue in question, which in this case is to discredit the unjust segregation laws. He uses the same technique of repetition of similar phrases at the beginning of every sentence on page four in paragraph four to drive home the point that there can be positive extremism.
The most common appeal
King’s use of emotional appeal to strengthen his argument and to arouse emotions in the targeted audience is very prevalent in this letter. He gives examples of his daughter asking why she could not be allowed to go to fun town like the other children and him being in an awkward position of having to tell her that she could not go to fun town because she is a colored child (King 83). He also gives an example of the police brutality in which the anti riot policemen who are supposedly required to maintain peace allow their dogs to bite unarmed peaceful demonstrators and also points out the old woman who would not board the bus in a peaceful march in a bid to have segregation laws abolished.
This letter is essentially very effective as it not only gives a logical justification of the peaceful protests against segregation laws, but also is personal in nature as to elicit emotive feelings to the audience thus paying close attention to the issues and concerns raised it it.
King, Martin Luther. “The Letter from Birmingham”. The Atlantic Monthly; August 1963; The
Negro is your Brother; Vol 212, No. 2; pg. 78-88.