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Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail is one of the most well known documents in American history. King’s profound ability to articulate important ideas, values, concepts and Biblical perspectives made for some of the most powerful and inspirational pieces of American literature ever produced. One technique that King used in his public speeches and letters was his allusions to historical figures, the Bible and opposing congressmen.
During the 60’s when cultural prejudice still held strong roots in Congress, it was King’s talent to inspire the public that revolutionized America’s racial injustices.
King’s frequent use of allusions in his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail proved his intelligence and greatly attributed to his success and popularity during the 1960’s. His allusions demonstrated his referential capabilities while also making his messages readily relatable to the public. It was often said that it was not King’s intelligence that made him seem so acumen, but that he was “well read”(knew much from reading).
His frequent allusions to major documents and famous statements in contest to his adversaries ultimately lead to his dominance in public speech. In the paragraphs 12 through 14 when king references the election of mayor Albert Boutwell, he states, “We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham” in paragraph twelve. The millennium is an allusion to a specific verse from the Bible’s book of Revelation interpreted as the 1,000 years in which Jesus comes back to earth to restore peace.
He made many correlations to the Bible and major public documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights to make his arguments accurate and mainly understandable by restating vital rules and quotes that even the illiterate could comprehend. In these paragraphs he quoted the Bible by using phrases like “moral light, “abyss of despair” and “ unjust posture. ” King used the word “wait” in this section of the letter multiple times as a allusion to the current denial of rights to African Americans that had been going on for the last 340 years.
He also stated that “justice too long delayed is justice denied” in correlation to the current racial dilemma in America at the time. All of these direct references made for some of the most significant and powerful American literature ever created and made Martin Luther King one of the most successful authors in this period of civil revolution. By reinforcing his argument with allusions that the public could relate to, King was able to greatly impact the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and ultimately bring around the social turning point of the century that provided racial equality to all and smother prejudice in America thereafter.
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