MLK: Letter from Birmingham Jail Essay
The 1960s was an extremely important time period in ending segregation, and
King played a huge part in it. Many people didn’t like his attempts, and tried to stop him; for example, the Alabama clergymen. The clergymen had made claims against him.
Letter from Birmingham Jail
King successfully refutes the accusations from the clergymen in a nice, mature manner while also turning the argument around and making it seem as if the clergymen were bad guys.
Because King is accused of being an extremist someone who is rash,
dangerous, and unreasonable he uses allusions to illustrate his credibility and to prove if done for the right reasons, extremism can be beneficial. King challenges his readers asking, “Will we be extremists for hate or love?”(par26) and classifies the example using historical figures. King makes allusions to both Hitler and Christ juxtaposing the hatred and destruction of Hitler’s extremism with the positive extremism of Christ who encouraged love, even the “love [of] enemies.”(par26) King’s question asking whether the clergymen will promote love or hate makes not only an emotional appeal, but an ethical appeal as well. The clergymen are forced to decide whether they will be like King doing the morally responsible action of accepting their brothers or if they will be like
Hitler, hating their brothers for their differences. Through his ethical appeal and
rhetorical devices, King justifies his own actions while putting the onus of action on the shoulders of the clergymen.
Given as a result of the accusation of being a lawbreaker, King explains how
breaking or following laws isn’t always bad or good, and it’s necessary in different situations. For example, King states that there are just and unjust laws. King uses the appeal of logos when he explains, “Any law that uplifts human personality is just [and] any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”(par16) He later goes on to explain when it is alright to actually break a law. King states, “An individual who breaks a law that [he believes] is unjust and who willingly accepts