Throughout our country’s history, the United States of America has faced problems within our nation with human rights. Of course, nowadays it is less of an issue, but it is still happening all around us, and it doesn’t make it less of a problem. In the era of segregation, 1984, there were two inspirational leaders, Martin Luther King Jr and Malcom X, who changed and moved many African American lives. In “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and the speech “The Ballot or the Bullet,’ both Mr. King and Malcom X speak to their audience about the importance of justice, by talking about civil rights and addressing the inequality. Despite the two having completely different audience they share many similarities and differences. In both texts Dr. King and Malcolm X use rhetorical devices such as: tone, repetition and restatement. They use tone to express the importance of their ideas, repetition to show the importance of their logic, restatement to express their ideas.
Although Dr. King and Malcom X were both fighting for equal rights, something that set the two apart was their style of approach and their tone used throughout their texts. Tone was an important rhetorical device that was used in both texts. In Dr. Kings letter he responds to the clergy men by addressing his concerns calmly. Dr. King didn’t believe in violence, he believed in peaceful protest. He continues by showing the clergy men that he is a well-educated man with his choice of words. In his letter he mentioned, “Since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticism are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.” (Letter from a Birmingham Jail) Malcom X’s tone was quite different. His speech went in an opposite direction from Dr. King’s. From the get-go Malcom X is assertive and outspoken. He opens his speech with “Mr. Moderator, brother Lomax, Brothers and sisters, friends and enemies” (Ballot or The Bullet) Malcom X was not afraid to say what came to his mind. Although he was bold and assertive, his words had powerful affects. As he spoke to his people, you could feel the power and pain in his words. He was tired of broken promises and believed that Mr. Kings peaceful protest weren’t doing any good. Malcom X sounded as if he was mocking Dr. King by saying, “You talk about a march on Washington in 1963” (Ballot or the Bullet) or “this time they’re not going like they went last year. They’re not going to sing “We Shall Overcome.” (Ballot or the Bullet)
Dr. King and Malcom X had two completely Tons, but one thing they had in common was the use of repetition. Repetition is the use of the same words or phrases. They used repetition a lot to throughout their texts to get their point across and emphasize the importance of what they are trying to fight for. Dr. King uses the word “just” and “unjust”. He helps make the clergy men understand the distinction between both words. He continues by explaining to the Clergy men that, “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.” (Letter from Birmingham jail) For example, it’s wrong to steal and to commit a murder, but it wasn’t wrong to enslave innocent people. Malcom X favorite rhetorical device to use was Repetition. Like his tittle “Ballot or the Bullet.” He mentions it throughout his speech to show the importance of the term “Ballot or the Bullet”. He continues by saying “Let it be the ballot or the bullet” “Let him know that it must be the ballot or the bullet.” The term is meant to send a message to the America Government, warning them that African Americans are willing to fight back until they are treated equally and given the right to vote.
They were both known for repeating the same phrase or idea in their texts, but another rhetorical device they both used was restatement. They tried to express the same idea in different words. The reasoning for restatement was to attach their audience and get them thinking. It was meant to persuade and have them view things in a different perspective. Dr. Kings uses restatement by saying, “As the weeks and months unfolded, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. The signs remained. As in so many experiences of the past, we were confronted with blasted hopes, and the dark shadow of a deep disappointment settled upon us.” (Letter from Birmingham Jail) Dr. King explains the same concept of broken promises, but in different ideas by comparing blasted hopes to the broken promises, to having to settle with disappointment once more. Malcom X uses restatement a lot just like he used repetition very often in his speech. He makes a comment, saying, “it’ll be the ballot, or it will be the bullet, it’ll be liberty, or it’ll be death, and if you are not ready to pay the price don’t use the word freedom in your vocabulary.” (Ballot or The Bullet) As he goes on with his speech you continue to hear “The Ballot or The Bullet”. He is pushing towards the same idea, but just rephrasing his statement to dramatize on his idea. If you don’t fight for what you want, did you really want it in the first place.
Although Dr. King and Malcom X did not believe in one another’s philosophy. They were both very good at persuading their audience. They used tone to convey a message, restatement to connect with their audience and express the same ideas, but in different words to keep the audience connected, and lastly, repetition. Repetition was used to dramatize specific words or phrases so it can stick in the mind of those they are speaking to. They both have changed many African American lives and helped gain civil rights.