Rhetorical Analysis Essay of “Letter From Birmingham Jail”

Rhetorical Analysis Essay of “Letter From Birmingham Jail”
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The letter that was created by Martin Luther King, Jr. was made public during the period of 1963 and this letter was authored while King was imprisoned due to a protest that was led by King on the 12th day of April, 1963. King was arrested because he protested even when the court of the region had disallowed any protests. The purpose for which King wrote the letter was to persuade the policy makers to allow him as well as his followers to continue to protest for their rights and the purpose was even to encourage the followers to continue with their peaceful protests. This is quite evident from the audience for whom the letter was authored. The letter specifically used terms such as Negros as well as Supreme Court which depicts the audience of the letter (King 1). King quite effectively uses persuasive techniques of ethos, logos and pathos to persuade both the policy makers and the African Americans to allow them to protest and to continue to protest.

King uses all three techniques of persuasion including ethos, pathos and logos in persuading his audience. His use of ethos is quite effective as first he develop his credibility in the eyes of the audience. He depicts himself as an individual who is reasonable by stating in the letter that he and his people had been waiting for more than 340 years for the constitution of United States to provide them with their rights that have been awarded to them by religion (King 1). This depicts his reasonableness because the clergymen were expecting King and his followers to wait for their rights while the African Americans had already waited for a considerable amount of time for their rights. He even depicts himself as a leader of the population he is making an effort to represent (Glenn 122). He does so to create his credibility in the eyes of the clergy. He depicts himself as a leader by stating that has already served in the position of president while he lead the leadership conference of the Southern Christians (King 1).

King quite effectively uses the tool of logos to provide credibility to the counter arguments that he had made to the arguments of the Clergy. He even uses logical fallacies to provide weight to his arguments. Within his letter he uses the logical fallacy of appeal to authority by stating that it is a fact that all human beings are equal when they are brought in this world (King 1). It is a logical fallacy of appeal to authority as King does not have legitimate credibility to say so since it’s the work of the scientific researchers to identify whether all human beings are born equal or not (McCutcheon 8). King did not only use logical fallacies to make his claims, he even provided sound logic for his actions. In response to being questioned about peaceful protest instead of negotiations, he states that the peaceful protests are a way of bringing the authorities to the negotiation table as these authorities have not negotiated even after several years of ill treatment of the African Americas.

King does not leave the tool of pathos to persuade his audience. He quite effectively uses emotional appeals for both the clergy as well as the followers to make them emotionally involved in the crises. He uses the emotional appeal of guilt to make the suppressors think about their wrong doings and at the same time he even uses same appeals to ignite the emotions of the African Americans to stand up for their rights. He states that it is very difficult to explain their children why they cannot access the entertainment and educational opportunities that are being offered to the elite of the United States and it is very difficult to see children weeping as a result of their rights being infringed upon (King 1). Using such emotional messages may make the African Americans feel that they have to change the society for the good of their children since children are quite dear to their parents.


During his stay at the Birmingham Jail for protesting even though court had ordered them not to protest, Martin Luther King devised a speech in order to persuade the clergy to allow him and his followers to peacefully protest for their rights and to motivate the followers to continue to protest. In the letter he uses every tool of persuasion including ethos, logos and pathos to make his claim and counter the arguments of the clergy. At the same time he even skillfully used logical fallacies to support his claims.

Works Cited
Glenn, Cheryl, and Loretta S Gray. The Writers Harbrace Handbook. 1st ed. Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008. Print.
King, Martin Luther. Dr. Martin Luther King, “I Have A Dream”. Mtholyoke.edu. N.p., 2014. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/speech/dream.htm
McCutcheon, Mark. The Final Theory. 1st ed. Boca Raton: Universal Publishers, 2010. Print.