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Letter from Birmingham City Jail Essay

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King wrote the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in an exceedingly effective way. King used his intelligence, virtue, and honesty to write an appropriate reply to the criticism he received. He also used logic and emotional appeal.

In the first paragraph King says, “… Since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth…” He gives the ministers importance. He recognizes that these men are of “genuine food” and accepts their sincere criticism with humbleness. Dr. Martin Luther King says, “I am sure that each of you would want to go beyond the superficial social analyst who looks merely at effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.” He demonstrated that he knows and respects that the ministers are intelligent and that they are in agreeance in some aspects. He later says, “But I have tried to say that this is normal and healthy discontent can be channelized through the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. Now this approach is being dismissed as extremist.

I must admit that I was initially disappointed in being categorized.” King expresses his beliefs as to be called an extremist. He does not believe his nonviolent actions should be labeled “extremist.” Dr. King says, “If I have said anything in this letter that is an overstatement of the truth and is indictive of an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me.” In this statement, he not only apologizes for any exaggerations, he also shows a great deal of respect to them.

King says,” Anyone who lives in the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere in this country.” King gives the ministers a feel of belonging. As long as they live in the Unites States they will be accepted. King later says, “Like so many experiences of the past, we were confronted with blasted hopes and the dark shadow of a deep disappointment settled upon us.” King describes his disappointments as dark shadows creating an image for his audience to relate to. He says, “For years now, I have heard the word” Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This “wait” has almost always meant “never” even though this may have been written in a placid manner, the ministers can feel that his actual emotions behind this sentence was anger.

Further on in the letter he says,”…when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as seek to explain to your six-year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that had just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told Funtown is closed to colored children, …and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness towards white people…” once again his audience can feel his anger. He creates images of this innocent little girl crying of disappointment slowly changing into someone resentful of White people.

A great deal of this letter was logical. In paragraph 6 King says, “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps (1) collection of facts to determine whether injustices are alive, (2) negotiation, (3) self-purification, (4) direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying of the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community.” King states the four basic steps and recognized that there is a certain way to behave. Later King also says, “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts, the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.”

Martin Luther King used a very logical appeal by saying; when a crime is committed consequences are inevitable. Anyone who commits a crime is punished. King later says, “One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for the best in the American dream and the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, and thusly, carrying our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.” He used God and religion as a logical appeal and to his audience, as ministers, God and religion are indeed especially logical.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King used his knowledge, values, and integrity to generate a suitable reply to the ministers. He replied in an effective manner with elegance and tranquility. He used reason and emotion to make his response further successful.

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