Maria VillantiENG 102David DeVine29 January 2018What role do citizens have in managing their own neighborhoods?Over the course of The Letter From Birmingham Jail, the author, Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr. writes to defend himself against the accusations against him, and he discusses his motives for his actions he has taken in the Civil Rights movement. The intended audience of the text is to the Clergymen, who it was directed toward, and also the white population. It was produced during an intense time in American History as minorities, specifically African Americans were fighting for justice, equality, and rights.
King uses multiple different rhetorical strategies and persuasive appeals to justify his actions and make a statement. Martin Luther King Jr uses diction throughout the letter to justify the reasons for the non-violent protests. He stated “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.
All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality” (King). The words King used in his statement were filled with negative connotation. For example, the words degrade, unjust, distorts, and damages all contribute to how he feels about segregation laws and what the segregation laws promote. He describes segregation laws as something that degrades human personality therefore making them unjust.
The United States is a country that values equality, justice, and freedom, however King is pointing toward the fact that juste laws are not something that are being valued during the time period and therefore he and other civil rights activists have a right to protest. In a specific passage from the letter King uses the word extremist multiple times. The dictionary definition of extremist is a person who holds extreme or fanatical political or religious views, especially one who resorts to or advocates extreme action. In society we usually associate the word extremist with negative ideas or someone who has done wrong to the world.
However in the passage King wrote he gave the word extremist not necessarily a negative connotation but he left the word open for interpretation. He referred to Jesus as an extremist for love and since he was writing to Clergymen it was a way for King to grab their attention and really think deeply about what he is saying. King’s repetition of the word extremist in the passage and the different types of extremist he described was used to make the audience especially the clergymen really think about what King is describing and make them think twice about their reason and that King’s and other civil rights activists “extremism” may not be to create more tension but to solve an unfair issue of the time. Martin Luther King Jr. uses imagery in The Letter From Birmingham Jail to support his claim that protest needs to occur for change to happen.
King said “Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices when bruised and weary negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest” (King). The “dark dungeons of complacency” puts a depressive image inside the heads of the audience. In the quote King was referring to the Governor and members of the church who stood around and did nothing when people were getting beat up in the streets just because of the color of their skin. When the audience reads this section of the letter an unsettling feeling may get put in them as many of them are bystanders of the brutal and inhumane acts towards minorities especially African Americans. The statement is also mainly directed toward the clergymen who are members of the church. Usually members of a church would be described as good-willed people that look past peoples differences and accept all people for who they are. However the members of the church watched as horrific events unfolded and took no action. The imagery used by King enhanced the readers visual of what is truly going on and provides support for King’s decision to direct non violent protests as a need for reform.