Martin Luther King Jr. – One Man, Many Impacts
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. showed intellect, high moral character, strong work ethic, and incredible courage. As a minority in the south during a time in which there was great segregation, consistently outnumbered by people who opposed his belief that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. He displays great maturity and depth of character as his approach displays clear points that are kind, but firm in conviction. His shows transparency about his perspective and his emotions towards the white majority. Careful and thorough in his selection of words, King makes a strong argument that would be difficult for anyone to refute. In a non-threatening manner, Dr. King uses ethos, pathos, and logos in his letter. Dr. King’s transparency about his many disappointments with not only white people and white leaders but also with the white church reveals just how confined African Americans of his day felt. Some African Americans had grown tired of the fight and simply succumbed to what they believed as the inevitable of their place in society. Others remained so frustrated that they were on the verge of becoming violent. According to Dr. King, “Oppressed people will not remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come”.
Dr. King’s wisdom and self-control enabled him to serve as a rational and reasonable voice, representing African Americans from both sides of the spectrum of emotion. As Dr. King addresses the clergymen in his letter, he uses ethos to prove his own validity to the audience. Ethos is described as an ethical appeal. Ethos, the Greek word for “character”, is used as a tool to persuade the audience of the author’s credibility or character. In his “Letter From Birmingham Jail”, Dr. King uses several different forms of writing to reach the audience and convince them of his validity. For instance, he compares himself to apostle Paul who left his own village to reach the lost. King says “I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. ” By making references to the Bible, King appeals to people’s religious side — reminding the readers of the gospel’s command to love all. He provides a way for the audience to personally connect to his mission. Dr. King carefully sets up his arguments in the gentlest way possible.
Another example of King’s use of ethos can be found in his explanation of his purpose for going to Birmingham, Al. He made it extremely clear that he had a concise plan of action in which he would address the discrepancies in the south. The letter was also intentional in providing evidence of the clear call to action, writing in such a way that it seemed he had no other choice than to go and protest for justice. His use of strong language suggests the urgency of his mission. For example, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed”. Understanding the mission in Birmingham, strengthens the audience’s understanding of King’s character and actions. An additional tool of writing is pathos, in which the author would appeal to the audience’s emotions. King begins by clearly outlining the difference between just and unjust law. Proclaiming that a just law stays in alignment with the law of God, while an unjust law is out harmony with the moral law.
The difference betweens these two forms of law becomes crucial as Dr. King expresses the tragedies the African American people have had to endure, allowing him to reach into the hearts of his audience and create compassion. After King establishes himself as a trustworthy person who has only the best intentions, he made a sudden turn in his writing by communicating his disappointment with the white moderate. Therefore, creating a feeling of guilt. By targeting those listening, King successfully creates a shift in the way the audience feels towards his “Letter”. Instead of looking for fault in Dr. King’s message, the readers feel obliged to change their approach to segregation and oppression those of the opposite race. Martin L. King Jr. also provides hope for the african American community, which is another example of logos. He describes how different the future will look in comparison to the struggles the negro community faces on a daily basis. By saying, “One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for the best in the American dream and the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage”. Dr. King recognizes the communities need for hope. Therefore he tells them of a time where their sacrifice will be a symbol of bravery.
Dr. King’s use of logos gained him the confidence of his readers. Logos is the use of logic and supportive evidence in order to persuade an audience. Evidence of logos can be found throughout the entire letter, however a few examples capture the audience’s attention in a more prominent way. King states an example by describing the outline to a nonviolent campaign by saying: In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying of the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States.
Martin Luther King Jr. then follows this up by listing multiple wrongdoings against the African American community. Namely touching upon unsolved bombing against innocent families throughout Birmingham. Naming these steps convinces the readers of King’s desire to be civilized in his mission in justice for all. Another example of logos would be the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. held the position of president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Therefore the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights extended him an invitation to aid them in their campaign. King explains this by saying, “So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here. ” The invitation holds considerable importance as it addresses people’s concerns for his presence within Alabama. Dr. King went with the sole purpose of representing the Negro community in a peaceful manner. In a non-threatening manner Dr. King was able to successfully use ethos, pathos, and logos in “Letters From Birmingham Jail”. King’s maturity and wisdom becomes undeniable as he effectively approaches segregation in a way that is anything less than graceful. He proved his validity through his use of ethos. No one person could argue the desperate need for action after reading his paper. Through the use of Pathos, a connection formed between the readers and Dr. King. His writings drew out emotion in people, so that they may better understand the demand for change.
Lastly, the use of logos proved the discrepancies taking hold of the African American community. Dr. King was an incredible leader who directed the civil rights movement into a more rational and reasonable style then what could of been expected.
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