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Have you wondered why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the letter that would change lives? Well during the midcentury, Martin Luther King wrote the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and he was criticized by many people including 8 clergymen and wanted to emphasize to the clergyman that he was never an outsider from the start. During this time also was a incident where Rosa Parks, who was an American civilist, decided to get on a bus and refused to give up her seat to a white male. This took place in the same city where Dr. King wrote his letter. Due to this act she therefore arrested and started to fight for the policy of racial segregation as Dr. King as emplacing too. In the letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King bring everyone together to talk about the protesters and why these people decided to continue to disobey laws and ordinances. The reason why he did this was because he was hated on and wanted to tell his audience that we should do this together and that we are all Americans if what he is saying is not enough to believe him. He is talking to the clergyman that they have no choice because they have been ignoring the fact that they can express unhappiness. Dr. Martin Luther is making it straight that he is not an outsider and he can help change many things if people stop protesting about laws and segregation. He talks mainly to the Black community/ African Americans as they were mainly the audience that were protesting and listening to his speech.
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He uses many different types of rhetorical appeals to make his argument and his opinion better due to the fact that they were protesting about violence and laws.
He first uses anaphora to better explain to the clergyman what laws are acceptable to the law. An example in his letter is toward the beginning of his letter. He uses this: “A just law is a manmade code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality”. In this quote, Dr. Martin Luther King’s explains to the clergyman what law is unjust and just. He says a just law is someone that is made of code and an unjust is someone that is out of harmony. He explains this to the clergyman because they don’t know difference. This is all logos because Dr. King is explaining to all the African Americans protesting saying that they have no choice and what a law is to him. He uses this again but with a different meaning. “One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice”. He tells us that he breaks the law knowing the penalty. He has the greatest respect because he is the one trying change.
MLK also uses a lot of personification as uses past history to tell us the important facts and details. Toward the end of the letter he talks about him personally going to jail for parading without a permit. “For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade.” Many people believed that was not the reason why he was put in jail. In the first place he was put in jail for protesting about segregation. To him he knew that it wasn’t his intention. It was viewed in a bad way at first. Another reference to history comes at the end of his letter where he uses Adolf Hitler. “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time”. He references back to Adolf Hitler because he reminds us that what Adolf did was legal in all ways and claimed that he would help the Jewish people illegally if he was living back in Germany in the past. He also uses the example of the Boston Tea Party He says: “In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience”. He references the Boston Tea Party because this is also an act of civil violence and uses Christianity and telling us that these people were doing the same as what the Boston Tea Party did for example.
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As seen from the essay, Dr. King used many rhetorical appeals to make his letter stronger and that he can help all people and that they everything can change if they stop protesting. Segregation and obeying laws that are just and unjust were the main points that he used to prove that he can change people’s perspective on things. He used a bunch of pathos and logos due to emotion and explaining facts and terms to the audience. Dr. Martin Luther wrote this letter because he wanted to prove that he could change people’s perspective and that he is not an outsider. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King did the right thing by fighting to make the place a better place. Dr. King told us that any law that treats people bad should not be obeyed and even though some laws are good, sometimes it can be applied wrong. Few years after this letter was written Dr. King passed away in 1968. He was a great man that impacted many lives due to him being a great person. Dr. King believed that he could do anything that would make a world a better place. Same with Rosa Parks as he fought for her racial segregation and did the right thing to refuse her seat. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a very good man and his letter from Birmingham Jail changed many people’s lives.
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