The Arguments And Statements In Letter From Birmingham Jail

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Segregation is the action or state of setting someone or something apart from other people or things. Segregation has been a prominent problem in America dating back to the early 18th century. This was because some believed that black and white people were incapable of coexisting. During the early 1900s, some southern states presented black coded and Jim crow laws. These laws separated black and white people and imported laws that’s prevent black people from certain everyday things. A nonviolence moment started by a man named Martin Luther King Jr. Martin Luther sought to raise public consciousness of racism, and to end racial discrimination and segregation in the United States. In 1963, Martin Luther was arrested and sent to jail for participating in a nonviolent demonstration. He wrote a long letter following his imprisonment, which was his response to a public statement of concerns and caution issued by eight white religious leaders of the south. Martin Luther King Jr. letter targets Americans all around the country, specifically, white political and religious leaders. King argues that local government shouldn’t be left to their own devices. People have a moral obligation to stand up to unjust laws.

To begin, Martin Luther king Jr. gets the attention of Americans and leaders by presenting the argument that government reformation needs to take place and that movement starts with the people. Martin Luther King Jr. begins by stating that person or group of people has criticized his actions, saying they were “unwise and untimely”. King expresses his opinion saying that he has no time to comment on every criticism that he gets and that if did he wouldn’t get work done. King starts the letter this way because he wants to reveal the underlying meaning that, he does not care what people say and that he will continue to fight. He then goes into the reason he came to Birmingham, because the clergyman state that he is an “outsider”. Instead of fighting the clergy men and belittling them, King calls the clergymen people of “genuine goodwill” and that he acknowledges and understands the sincerity of their concern. King does this to show his audience that he truly a nonviolent person. He continues to inform his critics that he was invited to Birmingham as a leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and to support the African American fight for civil rights. Beyond that, explaining that a root of injustice has sprouted in Birmingham and like other early Christian leaders, he is called to aid. King then rebuts his critics argument that segregation laws should be fought in court and not as public displays. He says that direct action is the only way they can force the white majority to confront racism and enter into dialogue. Beyond responding directly to the criticism directed from the clergymen, king uses his letter to explain further judgments. He explains the disappointment he has for white moderates and that their actions have the same effects as the Ku Klux Klan. He condemns the fact that white moderates claim to support his mission but, have no intention to get involved. King further extends his criticism to the leadership of the white church for enlisting a “status quo”. He expresses his disappointment of the church, as an institution that once “transformed the mores of society”. He laments the fact that the church has fallen from early Christian origin and has become “a social club” rather than a lack of inspiration for people. King then closes his letter on a hopeful note, he expresses his belief that African Americans will soon achieve the freedom and quality they are fighting for.

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Therefore, Martin Luther King Jr uses his power of speech to target the audience of everyday people and religious leaders on the issue of social and political reform. His “Letter from Birmingham Jail” presents the argument that government reformation needs to take place and that movement starts with the people. King begins his letter by complimenting his critics which establishes a tone rational dialogue. This is an important statement that King presented because white authorities attempted to portray the protestors as law breakers and extremists. King then turns to his point to point rebuttal of the criticisms presented against him. Kings responded with complete confidence in his actions, stating that he was at the right place at the right time and that his actions were necessary. As a Baptist minister responding to clergymen, King uses his in-depth knowledge of the bible and history of the church. He knows that comparing the protestors to the early Christian gives his critics the role of enemies of freedom. While his critics have expressed concern about his behavior, King focuses on the systemic racism that white authorities have ignored. He then emphasizes that protests are necessary action based on the African American current social and political conditions. King goes into detail about the steps have gone into his decision to protest and again focusing on the failing of white authorities. King asserts that the goal of the protests is to create an atmosphere of discomfort for whites thus creating the pressure needed to spark change. King now focuses on the distinction between law and justice, calling into question the validity of the laws he has broken. He is attempting to engage in dialogue with his fellow clergymen, reminding his readers that religious moral codes should be placed above political laws. King establishes that segregation is immoral. Ultimately, Martin Luther King Jr. describes that the white moderates as hypocritical and condescending towards African Americans. He argues that they agree on the surface with their overall goal of freedom and equality but are unwilling to take any further steps to fulfill them. He ends his argument that the role of action, in the form of nonviolent, as the only way of making change.

Futhermore, Martin Luther uses the argument for the need of social and political reform to attract the audience of people and religious leaders. He pulls in his audience by appealing to ethos, pathos and logos. Ethos is the use of credibility and trust. In Martin Luther King Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail” his credibility and trust is presented to show that he is a reliable and trusted public figure and that his argument should not be taken lightly.

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The Arguments And Statements In Letter From Birmingham Jail. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 12, 2024, from
“The Arguments And Statements In Letter From Birmingham Jail.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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