A Time to Break Silence – the Martin Luther King, Jr.

Imagine being separated in aspects of everyday life, such as transportation or education, purely due to your race. This was the reality of many African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. This movement took place during the 1960s, and was dedicated toward ending racial discrimination and gain equal rights for African Americans. One of the many influential leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr., was known for demonstrating the power of nonviolence to gain racial equality. Although written four years apart, two of his writings, “Beyond Vietnam,” and “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” convey his position on civil rights for African Americans. In the texts, “Beyond Vietnam” and “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” King uses imagery and figurative language to express his stance that African Americans should be given their civil rights.

King effectively utilizes imagery to demonstrate his position on gaining civil rights for African Americans. By applying imagery, King compares the horrors of the Vietnam war to the injustices of segregation. For example, King states that they must watch as “Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools” (“BV” #1). The writer explains how African American and white people are allowed to fight together in a war, but they are not allowed to do basic things, like attend the same school. By comparing the injustices of segregation to the Vietnam War, he suggests that gaining equality in this nation is more crucial that fighting a war with another nation. This demonstrates King’s efforts toward gaining equal rights for African Americans by indicating that more attention should be paid to segregation in America, than the Vietnam War. King also uses imagery to describe the negative aspects of the Vietnam War. For example, he states that they must watch them “burning the huts of a poor village,” but they don’t even live on the same block. (“BV” #1). King describes some of the horrendous events that take place during the war. The grim images that is associated with the Vietnam War demonstrates King’s antiwar stance because he describes the dark realities of the war. He also explains that African American and white people can carry out brutal acts together in the war, but they are unable to reside on the same street. By describing the negative aspects of the war, it is apparent that the writer wants to persuade his audience to not support the violence of the Vietnam War, but see that soldiers are fighting for the freedom of another region, while they do not have freedom, themselves. King also demonstrates his position on civil rights for African Americans by providing a vivid description of a child’s sadness when they must deal with discrimination. In his letter, he describes the “tears welling up in her little eyes” when she is told that she cannot go to an amusement park because they do not let colored people in, as well as the “the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky” (“LfBJ” #2″). This detailed description illustrates feelings of despair and inferiority that are brought on by racism, which emphasizes the detrimental effects of racism on the youth of the current generation. By explaining the effects of racism on children, as well as appealing to emotion, King demonstrates his goal toward ending racism. King also uses imagery to illustrate the brutality that African Americans are treated with. The letter states that it is difficult to wait for justice “…when you have seen hate-filled policeman curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers with impunity…” (“LfBJ” #2). This illustrates the cruel violence and injustice that African Americans must face. King is able to demonstrate the injustices that African Americans must face, by describing the painful experiences that are their reality, as well as appealing to emotion. Not only does King utilize imagery, but he utilizes figurative language, as well.

King implements figurative language into his writings in order to express his stance that African Americans need to attain their civil rights. King speaks about the detrimental effects that the Vietnam War will have on America, and builds his anti-war stance. For instance, King states, “If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam” (“BV” #2). By personifying America, King suggests that the Vietnam War might do more harm than good to the nation. This illustrates King’s mindset of nonviolence. Also, by suggesting that the soul of America might become totally poisoned, King may be referring to the corruption and injustice that may overrun society. King also uses imagery to emphasize the oppression faced by African Americans. In his speech, King states that “America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear” (“BV” #2). Here, King argues that America will never be free until King compares the oppression of African Americans to shackles to illustrate the restrainment of their rights. King demonstrates his aim to gain equal rights by arguing that America, as a whole, will never be free unless African Americans are free of the oppression faced by their ancestors. King also uses figurative language to illustrate the slow rate at which African Americans are gaining equality. For instance, he writes that Africa and Asia are moving toward political independence “at jetlike speed” while our nation creeps at “horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter” (“LfBJ” #2). Just like this nation, the nations of Africa and Asia have been known to have been struggling for independence, but they are achieving their goals much faster. While they are gaining equality, segregation is still enforced in many aspects of everyday life in our nation. This hyperbole emphasizes how our nation is gaining equality at a much slower rate than other nations. By comparing our nation’s success to that of others, King demonstrates that our nation should be able to move toward justice and equality at a faster pace. King also utilizes figurative language to describe the poverty that African Americans must face. For example, he the letter states that the vast majority of African Americans have been “smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society…” (“LfBJ” #2) Comparing poverty to an airtight cage illustrates how restraining the poverty that African Americans must face is. King also emphasizes the racial inequity in society by mentioning that that same poverty occurs in an affluent society. By describing the restricting poverty experienced by African Americans, King demonstrates the injustice faced by African Americans in society. The use of figurative language in both of King’s writings demonstrates goal toward achieving equality.

Through the use of imagery and figurative language in, “Beyond Vietnam” and “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. effectively conveys his stance on gaining civil rights for African Americans. Throughout his pieces of writing, King These pieces of texts demonstrate the immense impact that Martin Luther King Jr. had on the Civil Rights Movement. Toward the fight for equality and justice for all.

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