Letter from Birmingham Jail
Martin Luther King Jr. writes the Clergymen that have written him a letter disputing his actions in Birmingham. King is disturbed and offended by the Clergymen disagreeing with his purpose in Birmingham. King say he normally does not respond to criticism because it would waste to much precious time, but since these were men of good will he wanted to give his answers to their statements. In Kings letter he appeals to many emotions as pathos, ethos, and logos to appeal to his audience.
King starts his letter by saying While confined here in the Birmingham city jail. This is important because King is making a strong point right away in his letter. He is saying they threw me in jail for what I believe and I am okay with that because I am standing up for what I believe in. He is also saying I am making a sacrifice for the cause of human rights and yet you are disputing my purpose for being here in Birmingham.
King does a great job bringing his audience to reality when he talks about how he has been labeled as an outsider coming in by the Clergymen. King argues that he is part of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference serving as their President. King states that they were asked by affiliates in Birmingham to be on call to engage in nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary . . . the hour came and we lived up to our promise . . . I was invited here, I am here because I have organization ties here. King definitely feels that he had a genuine purpose to be there because of his organizational ties to the people of the community. Probably more so because of the responsibility to do something about the injustice committed in Birmingham. King had a strong belief that people should never be oppressed and the people of Birmingham have been oppressed for far to long. King felt that Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. In this he was saying that if you allowed the unrighteous treatment of people to occur in one area that it will only spread to new areas and affect more and more people. If people see this unjust treatment being committed with out consequences over and over they will come to accept it as okay and something that is accepted. This would in turn be a great tragedy to all mankind.
King brings in to consideration a persons logical thought when he talks about just and unjust laws.King says A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. The Clergymen express great concern over King is willingness to break laws. King replies that this is an understandable concern since everyone follows the Supreme Court Decision of 1954 that states; public schools are not to be segregated. In other words King is saying the Supreme Court can hand down a just law and yet people do not obey it but yet they expect me to obey an unjust law. In Germany under Adolf Hitler every thing he did was legal and the freedom fighters in Hungry did everything illegally. Aiding a Jew under Hitler was considered illegal. Because these things were legal did that make it right? No. Should people have obeyed these laws? No. These laws were made to suppress a group of people simple because of there religion. This is much like the segregation in the United States is it right because it is the law? No. Should these laws be followed? No.
Emotional feelings are felt through out the paper. A main emotional appeal king makes is when he is talking about his kids. When he is talking about his daughter and how she wanted to go to the new amusement park and how he would have to tell her that they could not because they were colored and colored people were not allowed. Also when he would have to answer his sons question Why do white people treat colored people so mean? King is hurt by having to answer these difficult questions posed by his own kids. It is reflected in his paper that this subject hits home directly he is living in segregation. He is a victim of it and that makes him an authority on the subject and someone who knows what he is talking about.
King displays authority in the first paragraph when he talks about his secretaries.This shows that King has some power and status if he can employee his own secretaries. King also appeals to trust when he was labeled as an extremist, at first King did not like this label but then he thinks about it more and goes on and say on his behalf Was not Jesus an extremistwas not Amos an extremistwas not Paul an extremist was not Martin Luther an extremist and John Bunyan and Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson all in their own way. King is comparing himself to all these famous people who have been labeled extremist in their own time and King is saying do you trust what these people say and do. Then you should trust what I say and do because I am like them, I am one of them you can trust what I say.
King writes his letter in a religious theme by citing many examples from the Bible and speaking of biblical characters such as the Apostle Paul and Jesus Christ. King does this to appeal to his audience of Clergymen who the letter was intended to be written to. Although the majority of the letter has been written to a much broader audience King liked to over explain himself in many areas of this article for it just to be written to the Clergy. King seemed to have in the back of his mind at the time of writing this letter that it might someday be viewed by a much larger audience then just the Clergymen it was addressed to.
King closes his letter very strongly by treating the Clergymen as his friends and Christian brothers. He refers to the segregation and racism as dark clouds of racial prejudice . . . and . . . deep fog of misunderstanding. King does not ever in his letter try to bad mouth or put down the Clergymen for disagreeing with him. Instead he tries to calmly yet strongly state his opinions, beliefs, and reasons for doing what he was doing in Birmingham. This is a very strong form of persuasion. The people you are conversing with are not made to feel like there beliefs or ideas are being threatened or offended.This forms a more open path for communication and does not creating an arguing match of insult after insult.