Rhetorical Analysis of Letter from Birmingham Jail
How it works
Letter from Birmingham jail is a letter addressed to the eight white clergymen who had gathered together to write an open letter criticizing the actions of Dr. Martin Luther King. The open letter voices the criticisms of the eight clergymen from the city of Birmingham condemning the actions of Dr. King and their protest in Birmingham. Dr. King writes to the clergymen expressing that he is upset about their concerns and criticisms and addresses them in his own letter. Dr. King follows up by responding to criticisms that he and his fellow activists are “outsiders” to the situation in Birmingham. In his letter Dr. king continues to address each of his criticisms and closes his letter counter- criticizing the eight clergymen along with the Birmingham police department. The many memorable quotes from Dr. King will be discussed in this essay.
“I must confess that I am no afraid of the word tension” (King, 1963) while tension is often thought of as a bad thing Dr. King is referring to two different kinds of tension. Violent and non-violent in which both are necessary for growth. Dr. King of course supports the latter. He feels as though non-violent tension will help people look past the myth’s and half-truths and will help bring them closer to finding solutions to racial inequality. “Luke warm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection” (King, 1963) Dr. King expresses his annoyance with his white counter-parts that say they are in favor of civils rights but are objective of the means in which activist are trying to obtain them. This lukewarm acceptance is more damaging than white supremacist groups outright denying them their rights.
How it works
“I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community” (King, 1963) Dr. King is aware that does not speak for every African American. There are those who don’t wish for change, those who have been so beaten down and mistreated by the system that the thought of being seen as equal is nothing but a dream. As well as the every few 1% of wealthy African Americans who have benefited from segregation. On the other end would be the violent activist willing to use militant force to get what they want such as group like the Black Panthers. Dr. Kings feels as though he is in the middle of both forces. Want equal right for African American but also wanting them to rightfully indulge in their culture.
Dr. King he apologizes to the eight clergymen for and thanks them for their patients and explains the it would have been shorter if not given his current situation. He then apologized to God. He also hopefully asks to meet them someday since they are fellow clergymen and share the same religion.