The United States of America has a rich history wherein they have dealt with various challenges and hardships during their past experiences. The issue of slavery is regarded as one of the most controversial issue that the United States has to face. Slavery was able to affect a many people at the time when the country especially the southern states are using slaves in order to increase their production and propagate their plantation businesses.
The attention that it captured is dependent upon the fact that slavery involves inequality especially in terms of the discrimination and inhuman treatment that African slaves have to go through. In relation to this, there are people who are fighting against this kind of discrimination against African slaves and are advocating for their equality in the society. One of the most prominent personalities who substantially contributed towards the betterment of the situation of the African slaves is Martin Luther King Jr.
The Letter from a Birmingham Jail exemplified some of his efforts in order to fight for the rights of African Americans. The Letter from a Birmingham Jail is a clear example of the Martin Luther King Jr. way of showing his disagreement against people and even institutions that foster the continuous adherence to such kind of discrimination. The effectiveness of Martin Luther King, Jr. writing is not merely dependent upon his good intentions to free the African Americans’ from being discriminated because of their racial background but it also has a lot to do with his exceptional skills in rhetoric writing.
In relation to these, it the main objective of this paper to prove how Martin Luther King Jr. used rhetoric elements in order to get through the readers of his letter. In doing so, this paper will discuss three specific paragraphs from the Letter from a Birmingham Jail. In connection to this, it will also analyze the rhetoric elements that Martin Luther King Jr. used and how this help in making other people see the injustice that the African Americans are experiencing. “I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states.
I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds” (King Jr.
, 1963). The Letter from a Birmingham Jail is his answer to the statements sent by the clergymen who criticizes the demonstration made by Martin Luther King Jr. and his supporters. One of the criticisms of the clergymen against him is that he is an outsider who is starting tension and conflict in Birmingham. He was able to counter-argue this accusation in his letter wherein he was able to defend himself and at the same time emphasize the important purpose that he has in Birmingham.
The previous paragraph shows how he used the logos in asserting that he is not an outside agitator. He exemplifies the principle of logos wherein he used reason in order to explain that every community in the United States is interconnected, which means that if injustice is existing in one place like Birmingham it is not unlikely that other communities will also follow it. In this sense, he asserted that as long as he is live in the boundaries of the United States he could never be an outsider.
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait! ” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never. ” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied” (King Jr.
, 1963). Another comment that the clergymen have with the demonstrations done by Martin Luther King Jr. together with his supporters is that they regarded this as untimely. These clergymen asserted that the demonstration was not “well timed” and that the African Americans in Birmingham should have waited for the right time in order to achieve the equality that they are fighting for. On the Other hand, Martin Luther King Jr. disagreed with such claim and he pointed this out in his letter specifically with the paragraph above.
He used the rhetoric element of pathos to prove his point wherein he pleaded through the hearts of the readers by showing the untoward situation of the African Americans. Due to this, he asserted that the clergymen’s claim of waiting is not easy especially for a group of people who have waited all their lives for justice that is still not achieve. Moreover, he also highlighted that justice should not be delayed because if such is done then this justice is also denied to the people. The rhetoric of equality is what Martin Luther King Jr. wants to prove in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail.
His main purpose might indeed be to answer the criticisms of the clergymen but in doing so, he was also able to point out the very reasons as to why they are fighting against the injustices that are happening in Birmingham. He was able to clearly make his message across by using the elements of persuasive speech like logos and pathos. The paragraphs that were discussed above show how Martin Luther King Jr. used both logic and emotion in order to see why discrimination that is rooted way back during the time of slavery in the United States is indeed a form of injustice that must be immediately addressed.
In this sense, Martin Luther King Jr. was able to use the power of the pen through rhetoric writing in order to defend himself and his causes against the scrutiny of the clergymen as well as to make the greater public aware of the real reasons behind their advocacy and the demonstration that they did in Birmingham. This only goes to show that persuasive speech has the power to enlightened minds and change hearts.
Reference King Jr. , M. L. (1963). Letter from a Birmingham Jail. African Studies Center-University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved April 4, 2009, from http://www. africa. upenn. edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham. html.