Essay: Compare and Contrast 'I Have a Dream' and 'Letter from Birmingham Jail'

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Martin Luther King Jr. was the foremost uplifting pioneer in American history, and his works have been studied and analyzed to acquire the skill of rhetoric. The art of rhetoric delivered by Dr. King in both pieces of writing offers to the common group of onlookers in numerous ways. While the two pieces of writing are similar in their general eloquence, they differ in their logical and emotional appeal. Both the letter and discourse contained a request to break even with gracious rights by the specialists. “Letter from Birmingham Jail” may be a reaction to the detainment of nonviolent protesters, and “I Have a Dream” could be a response to the shared cause of flexibility and balance.

In the “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Dr. King's choice of words communicates the logical thought of social change for uniformity and a racist-free society. Such as, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. “Unfortunately, demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the negro community with no alternative.”(page 272). Similar to the script of the “I Have a Dream” speech, where Dr. King emphasizes devout uncertainty towards value for Black Americans as second-class citizens within the American dream. As stated, “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note-.”(page 262) The nation and the authorities(whites) have utilized their capabilities (Negro slaves), but don't acknowledge their inheritance to opportunity and uniformity. As expressed, both writings convey a clear line of reasoning supported by expert testimony.

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Luther King's journey as a motivational leader during the government's exploitation of African Americans, was persuasive and benevolent because he spoke like a preacher and adopted a clear resolution to a palace of justice for the people. Honest belief in a better improvement and forgiveness had an emotional realization to many. Just like Luther explains in “I Have a Dream” oration, “You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, somehow knowing this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.”(page 263) The amount of emotion described in King's speech flooded the people with emotions related to brought-up memories and present experiences.

Similarly, in “Letter from Birmingham” Martins's message to the clergyman highlights the urgency to step forward to gain political independence. As explained, “We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. -When you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you shave seen hate-filled policeman curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty amid an affluent society. Negro living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.” This demonstrates and concludes the comparison in both pieces of literature to have charged language that has an influential effect on change.

In conclusion, Dr. Martins’ literature is full of the control of expression, and his inferred tone influenced activists to put their endeavors together for the common objective of condemning partiality and prejudice. Within the letter, Luther talks like an evangelist and embraces a straight tone. However, within the discourse, his tone is more persuasive and kind. “Letter from Birmingham Jail” may be a response to the detainment of peaceful nonconformists, and “I Have a Dream” may be a levelheaded reaction to the shared cause of opportunity and equality.

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Essay: Compare and Contrast ‘I Have a Dream’ and ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’. (2024, February 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
“Essay: Compare and Contrast ‘I Have a Dream’ and ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’.” Edubirdie, 09 Feb. 2024,
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