Free Essay with Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" Rhetorical Analysis

Published: 2022-04-28
Free Essay with Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" Rhetorical Analysis
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Racism Martin Luther King
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 1987 words
17 min read

The Birmingham letter was written by Dr. Luther king junior while in jail. The purpose of the letter was to address the serious issues in Birmingham and the United States in general around that period when racism was at its pick. The black American who for a long time had been subjected to slavery were facing racial segregation following the anti-slavery campaigns launched worldwide. Although the black people were no longer enslaved the white supremacist felt the need to keep the black segregated and therefore enforced system that were discriminatory and oppressive to the black. Martin Luther King junior a human right activist had been brought up in the same injustices was determined to stop at nothing in ensuring that the black people in the United States received equal treatment. He founded civil right movement and become a chief campaigner for the black people rights. Although he was imprisoned for being vocal and was considered as a threat to the government, he continued to send the message of hope and demand for change to the world even while in jail. He wrote letter to his fellow black people often encouraging them to strive through in seeking justice (Asen 16). By reading through his letter Martin Luther junior used different literary devices and styles while delivering the message. In his letter, it is easy to pick the appeal of emotion, logical appeals and ethical appeals among other rhetoric appeals. In this essay therefore, the rhetoric appeals applied by martin king junior in his letter from jail will be illustrated and discussed.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

Use of rhetoric appeals can be a success if the writer manages to apply the tactics in persuading the possible audience, as if with the intention of winning a debate. In the process of doing this, the martin king junior manages to create a trusted bond with the relevant audience by supporting his stated claims through use of emotions and reliable justification (Fulkerson 37). Use of emotion help compelling the audience to go an extra mile into striving to take action rather than getting used to the prevailing malpractices. He also managed to support his claim through reason. Martian move was motivated by the society ongoing peaceful debates against racial injustices while he was behind bars. His letter purposely aimed at responding to statements made by the Alabama clergymen who were in support with the debates that segregation should be fought in courts rather than on the streets.


In the Birmingham letter Martin king used ethos as a device reflecting more on the culture and people's attitude and morality. Martin king does not a exult himself as the most powerful being next to Jesus nor he does not exhibit himself as the greatest politicians of the time but his primary aim was to remain and sustain an ethical stand even when life was at its worst. His ethical stand is exhibited in the manner by which he portrays his argument and stand. Martin insisted on a higher moral truth than the local laws and took the American cultural ideals with much keen and seriousness (Fulkerson 48). First he began by making an ethical appeal by saying it was as a result of the social inequality and unfairness that he was in Birmingham jail. Such a remark illustrated that the action in Birmingham were wrong and change was needed for the problem to be fixed. He also goes ahead and quote "justice too long delayed is justice denied (King, 218)." his quote intend to pass the message that even though people wait for justice it was first important to realized it's the injustice that exist that is preventing justice. Awaiting without taking action is supporting the delayed justice and accepting injustice.

He uses another ethical appeal when he compared the church condemnation of him and fellow activists. He says condemning him is like condemning renowned activists is same to condemning a robber. A robber commits crime for passion of money and so other famous activist need to be condemned equality for their extreme actions which are evil. The appeal put him in o higher level with other activists who would not be judged evil for their actions. This was because condemning them renowned activist for their evil was also convicting them of their moral cause. He goes ahead and states of his family history. Martian king come from a religious background and this leaves him very knowledgeable of what is ethical and immoral (Asen 32). This remark appealed to the higher authority in the church.

Another most pronoun ethos in his letter that caught much attention was when Martin begin to explain the variance between the just and the unjust laws. In the process, he quotes from famous figures of the past such as Thomas Aquinas, Paul of Tarsus, Abraham Lincoln, Socrates and Abednego and two others. According Martin him and his lineage were in a similar lace to that of this renowned countercultural visionaries and freedom fighters whose intent was to foster freedom for their people. One of the quotes from Thomas Aquinas used by Martin was "an unjust laws is a human law that is not rooted in the eternal and natural laws," (Asen 50). Martin king aim at differentiating the just and the unjust. Based on Martin's argument laws are man-made code that aim at meeting and matching the Gods law. "The religious tinge that reflect on the thoughts and actions of the civil right movement" such an argument set part other civil movements for example the Muslim movement that's are radical. Martin also in the later criticized the ethics of the white people churches challenging them to invite the black people to worship in their churches.

To create an ethical appeal martin king decides to use empathy by clarifying to the people that he does not respond to criticism but his choice this time around was out of "genuine good will"( King 216). Dr King feedback was not therefore, received as inciting but rather his feedback was well received by the clergy who perceived his motives jejune bring them and Dr King to a common ground of understanding the goodwill response created trust and ethically his action were perceived justifiable


Despite using ethics to assert his purpose he managed to use emotional appeal. For example, he states our hopes have been blasted and shadow of deep disappointment settle upon us" this remarks causes despair to the leader and compel the reader to side with him and his cause. He also give account of memorable injustices committed against the black Americans at the end creating sympathy. For example, he states the "the unsolved bombing of Negros churches and homes, violence, inhumane treatment drained respect and oppression" (King 221) among other sympathetic remarks. His words appeal emotionally to those in support of his cause and himself whey change is important and a thin line that exist is exposed making one feel pity for the black people and creating reason for change supporting his mission in demanding for change. Such emotion are also quite compiling and easy to trigger people into revolutionary action against racial inequality in United States.

He was also able to stir up anger and fear in the letter by stating of the family mistreatments endured. He describes pain endured by parent's sisters and brother in the Negro community drowned in poverty. He illustrates of the pain endured by stating " when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to public school parks which are being advertise on television"( King 234). Every person loves family and what better way to reach to people than through family. Everyone hates to hear the worst about his or her family and as result martin king remarks manages to create sympathy among the leaders. By use of pathos he is able to bring a about a wide range of emotion both of grief, fear and sympathy not only to him but also to the society in general. It is easy to relate to his story and that of others and overly understand his cause.

Logical fallacies

By examining the latter martin make critical and logical arguments. Martin uses facts when describing facts in manner that many others were shying away from and failed to achieve. Luther's logic arguments details the political situation of the time and the uncertainty of the previous elections. He purposed on further detailing why the non-violent disobedience was a possibility for reforms ideally. Also his logic refutes the claims set by the eight clergymen. One of the most outstanding argument put forward by Dr King in the letter is that, the just and legal laws should be followed and succeeded but the unjust should be openly and deliberately disobeyed. Martian king logic statements were simple an known by all and for him to appeal and make his point stand out for debate to more people he went a stretch further into writing like lawyer by defining what is just and unjust from diverse point of views. For example, in his letter he states" let's consider a more concrete example of the just and unjust laws, Unjust laws power of the majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself" (King 214)

Martin king also effectively employs logical fallacies first when directing his arguments. For example, Martin bring up a letter directed to him by a man in Texas. In the letter Texas man question martin religious intention and direction. He questions whether Martin religious attachment was in too much hurry to establish a civil right movement similar to what Christianity had taken an equivalent of 2000 years to accomplish. The teaching of Christ took time to reach the earth (Leff and Ebony 67). Such facts stated were used by Martin king to explain and support his view on civil right movement. The civil right movement would therefore, not only happen, it was process that would take time just like Christianity took time to form and therefore time is a neutral factor. King claim supports the idea that time for civil right movement is now and not only is time for civil right movement but also time for non-violent action as well. The audience are therefore compelled to either agree to do something now or either decide to support segregation. The use of reason effectively enable that audience decide which side to pick.

Logic fallacy is used by Martin king to support his claim of being an extremist. Dr King states that he was perceived an extremist, however gradually gained forms of satisfaction slowly from been consider an extremist. He went ahead to quoting some of the greatest people in history who were found extreme yet had a great purpose celebrated to date. For example, he states was Jesus not an extremist in love, he also mentioned Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln among others who were also consider as extremists yet heroes of the time. These historically renowned people are praised for their heroism and he mentioning them in the context created a dilemma and therefore, he placed the people in a dilemma to choose him and his action which were destined for the greater good of the people (Asen 54). Use of such logic helped convince the readers that the nonviolent direction was the option and therefore, people were either against him and his ideology or with him.

Biblical analogy

Martin use of biblical analogy helped create common ground between him and the clergy. He wanted to great a ground where the religious leaders and the Christian follower him included would come together related by similar ideas. Such a neutral environment would create room for Dr King ideology to flourish smoothly as every person would have a clear picture of what king was intending to accomplish while in jail (Tiefenbrun 42). The letter from jail was directed primarily to the clergies who were the readers...

Cite this page

Free Essay with Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" Rhetorical Analysis. (2022, Apr 28). Retrieved from

Request Removal

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the SpeedyPaper website, please click below to request its removal:

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism