Dr. Debora Stefani
23 Feb. 2015
“Letter From Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King;
“White Power, Black Crime, and Racial Politics by Robert Staples:
It is easy to fall into the hyperbole when discussing Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and one can see the virtues that encourage that hyperbole almost right away when first reading it, even ignoring its great influence throughout decades and the world. The letter is a masterpiece of didactic, legalistic, emotional, and most of all moral argument to the clergymen and town. Its thrilling language and heightened content are only underlined by its meticulous structure, which reflects Dr. King high-quality education and focused mindset. In this letter Dr. King focused his attention to the audience of eight clergymen. His main argument was that these men are not upholding their duties as clergymen and that they should join together to make their towns a better place to live for all races and social classes. The appeal of Pathos is used to catch the reader’s attention by first addressing the people he was talking to. Immediately after that he says,” While confined here in Birmingham Jail” and “Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas.” Here Dr. King is letting the clergymen know that he is taking time to address them and that they are worth addressing over the issue of segregation and the way African Americans are treated as a society. King also uses pronouns throughout this letter like “us”, “you” , and “our” to create a sense of togetherness or make them feel like they are connected on this issue.
Later on, King uses another way to connect with the audience. He does this through the appeal of Logos. In this letter Dr. King had a key moment in this letter where he states, “in any nonviolent campaigns there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action.” This moment would demonstrate an argument by definition. With this being said he further explains why these issues in Birmingham have occurred and the effect it had on the people there. By bringing these issues to the forefront, King is building his credibility as a person and an important leader on this issue. (build on logos) King is able to build his credibility through the process of Ethos. Ethos is also a way to show King’s trustworthiness. He uses ethos by quoting people who seem to be credible such as Reinhold Niebuhr an American philosopher. King also mentions key people from the Bible; who if you are a believer of the bible are very credible. For example, he mentions Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Another key group of people King mentions is Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Martin Luther; all whom are key people in American culture. The author also used ethos to catch the reader’s attention by first addressing the people he was talking to. Immediately after that he says,” While confined here in Birmingham Jail” and “Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas.” Here Dr. King is letting the clergymen know that he is taking time to address them and that they are worth addressing over the issue of segregation and the way African Americans are treated as a society.
With the uproar King has to face when it came to this issue, he was able to get his point across. King’s main goal was to have equality for all people. He stated that “ all have a sense of justice that simply needs to be directed properly.” In conclusion, King ends the letter using pathos telling the clergymen that they need to put their differences aside and come together as one. In the article of “White Power, Black Crime, and Racial Politics was published in 2011 in The Black Scholar. Robert Staples focuses on giving the audience a large history behind the corruption in law enforcement. Staples dates it back into the days of slavery, and points out how it