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Rhetorical Analysis of MLK Jr's Letter from Birmingham Jail - Essay Example

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Rhetorical Analysis of MLK Jr's “Letter from Birmingham Jail” Dr. Martin Luther King, an African American U.S. civil rights leader and clergyman, advocated nonviolent resistance in the face of discrimination and violence. Martin Luther King Junior’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is quite persuasive in nature and the author has successfully employed various rhetorical strategies all throughout the letter…
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Rhetorical Analysis of MLK Jrs Letter from Birmingham Jail
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"Rhetorical Analysis of MLK Jr's Letter from Birmingham Jail"

Download file to see previous pages The letter is King’s response to the public statement issued by eight white religious leaders of the South. All throughout the letter King emphasizes that the demonstration conducted at Birmingham was quite non-violent in nature and he warns the authorities that the injustice, segregation and racial discrimination shown towards the Negroes can be overcome only through non-violence and civil disobedience. The letter clearly demonstrates that Martin Luther King was quite aware of the nature of his audience or readers. Thus, he consciously stresses the Judeo-Christian tradition of the liberation of the oppressed and propagates democratic human rights (Ess). The Negroes are referred to as oppressed, segregated, robbed and suppressed. One can find King addressing his audience as ‘my Christian and Jewish brothers.’ The recurrent references to the Holy Bible, Jesus Christ and Apostle Paul are quite meaningful and he also draws parallels between the experiences of early Christian martyrs and the demonstrators. At the very outset of the letter king makes it clear that he supported the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights as he wanted to propagate the gospel of freedom beyond his own particular hometown just as St. Paul preached Christ’s gospel to everyone. Towards the end of the letter King expresses his disappointment toward the white church and its leadership. Even though King expected Christian brotherhood and support from them, it is quite misfortunate that many of the white Church have proved to be opponents of the movement. He exhorts the church authorities to react against the injustice shown to the blacks and to express moral concerns over the status quo. He also warns that if the Church shuts its eyes towards these injustice believers would move away from it. King also pays special attention to appeal to the logos (use of reasoning to appeal to the reader) of his audience. He vividly portrays the segregation, injustice and racial discrimination experienced by the Negro community and purports that it was reasonable for the demonstrators to engage in non-violent protests. King, in his letter, stresses on the ‘interrelatedness of all communities and states’ and he postulates that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (King 2). Thus, he makes it clear that he cannot shut his eyes to any sort of injustice whether it is in Atlanta or Birmingham. While the white religious leaders of the South regarded the demonstrations in Birmingham as unfortunate King admits that the Negro community in Birmingham had no other alternatives but to fight against the white power structure in the city. He repudiates that the actions of the demonstrators would never precipitate violence. He exhorts the society to ‘protect the robbed and punish the robber’ (King 3). He believes that only through tireless non-violent efforts and hard work the dreams of the black man could be cherished. King’s next focus in the letter is to convince his readers/audience of the various reasons as well as the non-violent nature of the demonstration. King goes on to explain the four basic steps of any nonviolent campaign: “collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action” ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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