“Letter to Birmingham Jail” was written by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 in order to address several clergymen who had criticized Dr. King’s, as well as his supporters’ actions and protests. These clergymen, 8 in number, have also criticized the actions of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). While in jail, Martin Luther King Jr. expressed discontentment concerning such critiques and desired to address these concerns with an appropriate mechanism through this letter. He was disappointed in the unnecessary problems this seemed to be creating since he was using a nonviolent way of coping with this problem instead of rebelling. The letter became well known and read by many, motivating him to revise and update it in one of his books, Why We Can’t-Wait. He was put in prison for opposing the way black people were treated where he lived in Birmingham, Alabama. Many people who supported and went along with what he was doing have also had to experience penalties.
Martin Luther King Jr. has efficiently and evidently established ethos throughout this letter. Dr. King is known for being an intelligent African American who is able to reason educationally. The fact that he was a priest in the past has helped lead his supporters to trust and follow his paths. In the letter, he explains the different ways his organization uses nonviolent protests and events. He explained how he and his supporters share these events. An example of one would be the mayoral election. As Dr. King states, “Then it occurred to us that the March election was ahead, and so we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day.” and “This reveals that we did not move irresponsibly into direct action.” (MLK, paragraph 9). He used these quotes to defend his team’s timing of their actions since the clergymen claimed the timing was not the best. Dr. King has also related current problems with the church and his religious beliefs.
Dr. King was intelligent when writing the extendedly long sentence in paragraph 14. This very intriguing sentence has impacted me emotionally because of the way the problem during that time was taken into different perspectives. I got to almost feel like I’m experiencing the feeling of being in African American’s place during this time. Even though I have been educated about racism, discrimination, and abuse in history for as long as I can remember, this opened up my eyes to something I could’ve never realized on my own. He formatted the situation in a way to impact anyone who reads it emotionally by building an emotional connection between the people that mean the most to you. And by doing this, he has impacted me by sharing his and other African American families’ perspectives and experiences, since I would have no idea what it would be like to be in their shoes. It terrifies me to even imagine what life would be like as a colored person during this time. Racial discrimination should never have existed, ever. This sentence helped me realize just how cruel the world really is. Ruthless, absurd, and idiotic would all be perfect ways to describe a racist person, in my opinion. I feel very sorry for people who have ever experienced racial discrimination ever, whether in history or more recently. The quote “We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights.” (MLK, paragraph 14) remains as evidence for African American’s extended torture and misery.
There are many times where Martin Luther King Jr successfully used figurative language in the appropriate times to enhance the reader’s perspective of the situation. One of these instances being in the quote “If this philosophy had not emerged, I am convinced that by now many streets of the South would be flowing with floods of blood.” (MLK, paragraph 22) This hyperbole was stated to explain the dramatic effects of racial injustice and violence to bring up how inhuman the actions of white people were during that time. It also states that even when people would fight and blood will be poured out, the streets and roads wouldn’t actually overflow with blood. This is to dramatize what was happening about white people killing black people so much that it became a common occurrence.
I think that this letter gives me indescribable feelings and thoughts. It conveys emotions I’m not used to experiencing. By the time I was done reading the letter, I became very sorry for African Americans during that time, since they are people also and are like everyone else. Nothing makes them different in any way and seeing them being treated worse than animals hurts my heart. Martin Luther King Jr. did a really good job of conveying emotions to whoever the readers were. I would not be able to imagine living in fear like they did. I firmly believe that black people in all of history were magnificent, brave, and courageous during times when it was impossible to be. I am proud to know that America has mostly moved on from violent acts against African Americans. But what still bothers me is the fact that racism is still happening on a daily basis. I feel that this needs to stop right now. People need to mature and realize that everyone is human. This letter humiliated me in a way and made me recognize and appreciate the rights and freedom that I have.
In summary, I can conclude that this letter has and still is extremely motivating and powerful. It shows the courage of black people in history. I found it amazing and shocking that instead of rebelling violently, they decided to turn their right cheek when the whites hit their left, as the Bible says. No matter what, not once did they lose hope and courage. They never gave up. I aspire to be as brave and influential as black people during this historical event. By that, I mean that I would love to influence people’s lives in the most positive way possible, as did Martin Luther King Jr. He deserves all the love and respect in the world for him sacrificing himself for his own people. He is a true hero. In the future, I hope people realize that being racist is idiotic and childish and will stop being racist toward anyone, no matter who it is.