Letter From Birmingham Jail

Intention: Martin Luther King Jr. uses rhetorical strategies to show his audience the reasons why he is willing to go to jail for what he believes in.

Pathos: MLK appeals to emotion by giving very descriptive reasons to why the African Americans could not wait for change any longer. “But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim.”  This makes the reader think about their own family members and the emotions that would be involved with their murder.

Favorite Quote: “I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action.” With this quote, especially as a white moderate, I feel called to action. I find all of MLK’s rhetorical tools working on me.

Audience/logos: King knew he would have a skeptical audience. By referencing Jesus Christ and Paul the Apostle, he gives examples that his audience would understand and would not be able to disagree with. This helps his argument while tearing down the opposing argument with their own beliefs.

–Mackenzie Coon


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