Letter from Birmingham City Jail by Martin Luther King Jr. (Methods of…
Letter from Birmingham City Jail by Martin Luther King Jr.
Methods of Appeal
"An unjust law is a code inflicted upon a minority which that minority had no part in enacting or creating because they did not have the unhampered right to vote." (281)
In this quote, King directly gives the definition of an unjust law in order to make it very clear that he was in jail among many other minorities because of an unfair law enacted against him. King appeals to the logical side of his audience because he provides a very simple yet intellectual definition of what it means to be incarcerated for an unjust law. Later, King provides examples of unjust laws which again appeals to the logical aspect of one's mind.
"All types of conniving methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered to vote despite the fact that the Negro constitutes a majority of the population." (281)
King appeals to the logical aspect of his audiences' brains when he states a thought-provoking statistic. Despite the fact that Negroes made up a majority of the population, they still did not have a voice and were not allowed to have basic human rights. This statement leads the reader down a rabbit rail of wondering why on earth there was so much injustice in the world and why so much of it was directed towards black people. Once again, King gets the reader thinking logically and therefore, is using logos.
"I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law."
King elicits feelings of reverence and pride in the hearts of his readers in this excerpt from
Letter from Birmingham City Jail
. By stating that complying to the punishment after committing an unjust law is the most respectful action one can take, King unites his people to feel pride in their sufferings. He wants his people to know that they should not succumb to being oppressed but instead hold respect for the law and those who uphold it. This underlying message leads the reader to feel emotions of respect and unity for their community and leader, Martin Luther King Jr.
"One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly (not hatefully as the white mothers did in New Orleans when they were seen on television screaming, "nigger, nigger, nigger"), and with a willingness to accept the penalty." (282)
In this excerpt, King elicits feelings of hatred and reverence- two opposing emotions. The reader feels hatred when King speaks of the white mothers who creamed racial slurs across national television. At the same time, they also felt reverence and pride knowing that they had power and control. They could listen to King's words and be willing to accept the punishment for the control they deserved to finally have.
"I was arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now there is nothing wrong with an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade..." (281-2820
Because King has firsthand experiences of what it is like to be wrongly accused of something that he should not be wrongly accused of, King is able to build credibility in his statements. One cannot preach about something that they do not know or do not understand which is why King is able to preach about nonviolent resistance because he actually has gone through it.
"A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or law of God... An unjust law is a code inflicted upon a minority that had no part in enacting..." (281)
King quickly builds credibility with his audience through his thorough definitions of unjust laws and just laws. By making claims about the polarizing ideas, King is able to prove to his audience that he knows exactly what he is talking about and he is not afraid to show it to the world. He goes into depth while describe each word which provides even more evidence as to why King appeals very strongly to the ethical sense of his followers.
Letter from Birmingham City Jail
, King constantly asks his audience questions. Part of the reason for doing this is to show how obvious the answer is and to make it clear that this question should not even have to be asked. King also wants to make sure that his readers are following along with the complex subject matter that he is talking about, such as the difference between unjust and just laws.
Martin Luther King Jr. makes a point to never be abrasive or demanding when he describes his experiences with unjust laws leading to unjust punishment. He states, "I hope you can see the distinction..." (282). This calming and respectful attitude that King has is very appropriate for his letter and builds reverence for King among those who read it.
The purpose of writing a Letter from Birmingham City Jail is to make the difference between unjust and just laws very apparent. He wants people to know that segregation still exists and it is as clear as ever. He does not stop here, though. King strives to defend his idea that nonviolent resistance to racism and oppression is the best type of resistance.