“Letter From Birmingham Jail”: Martin Luther King Jr. Vs. The Alabama Clergymen Homework Essay Sample

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the Public Statement made by eight Alabama clergymen in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” In this letter, King counter-argues the points the clergymen were making and uses logos, ethos, and pathos in order to make his counter-argument. By disproving the statements made by the clergymen and by having strong logos, ethos, and pathos, King provides a solid argument. King starts his letter by explaining why he is in Birmingham. This helps King establish ethos to help him win over the people who might have been swayed by the clergymen. In the second paragraph, King says “Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call…” This supporting evidence can be backed up by just simply asking the affiliate, but the readers would most likely not need to because King has justified his presence and established thorough ethos. He also goes on to say that he is in Birmingham because there is injustice in Birmingham. This helps prove that Martin Luther King Jr. is there as a force to help change, and not to start a riot. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ability to write so calmly to people who were attacking him also helped his ethos. Martin Luther King Jr. also uses logos to further his argument. He explains the process of nonviolent protesting in the sixth paragraph. These four steps are very logical and practical and do not mean to cause harm to anyone. They are only a means to an end of injustice. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” This statement made by King is so concise, but holds so much meaning. This one sentence makes complete sense and further proves why King should be in Birmingham.

However, logic is not the main way King supports his argument. King also heavily supports his argument with pathos. In the twelfth paragraph, the examples of pathos are very strong. He lists many things that he and other blacks have seen just because of racial differences. The first thing he mentions is “when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim.” This paints a very vivid image in the minds of people who have not seen this, and further enrages those who have been affected by such an action. Another thing he says in the same paragraph is how it is rough “when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”” People are usually drawn to statements and sad comments involving children. It plucks at the heartstrings of individuals knowing that a five year old child is upset because he cannot fathom why people are so mean to other people just because of skin color. The audience of this letter will sympathize and begin to understand King’s point of view. Martin Luther King Jr. is known as the man who helped blacks gain rights, the man who achieved so much without using violence, and the man who gave the “I Have a Dream” speech. Having read his letter to the clergymen, it is not hard to see why people followed him so easily. His ethos is well-established and he is very trustworthy. He uses logos to help people see the reason behind his words. He uses pathos to move people and get them to understand the situations and the pain being brought to an entire race. Martin Luther King Jr. very thoroughly covered the areas of doubt from the clergymen as well as secured his argument and persuaded people to take his side in the cause.

Martin Luther King Jr.: A Civil Rights Activist Who Changed

Martin Luther King Jr. has become one of history’s biggest civil rights activists who has completely changed the world we currently live in today. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, King talks about the difference between moral and immoral laws. King tries to explain that justice has a sense of morality by saying, “one has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all”. Since King was a minister of the church, he constantly refers back to the bible to look for support for justice and morality, yet there is no prevalent religious issue. When looking at justice and morality, it is easy to relate the two as being similarly connected, but they are not the same.

In paragraph 16, King goes into detail and explains the difference between an unjust and just law. He also explains how one determines whether the law is just or unjust. When explaining the difference between the two laws he states, “ A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust”. When relating to the bible, King talks about how the early Christians were willing to face hungry lions and the pain of chopping blocks instead of facing certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire which made them out casters. While he was a minister of the church and often relates back to religious examples, King is more concerned about how morality and justice stand together. What King also looks at is that unjust laws are usually put against the minority which is compelled to obey but it is not binding on itself. King explains it as, “difference made legal.” When comparing morality and justice, they are easy to relate to each other but are not the same. Often times people see morality and justice the same because when justice is served, the morality of the served justice among people seems to be the ‘correct’ way people think in society. To explain how they are not necessarily the same, the issue of physician assisted suicide (PAS) comes into mind.

While most people believe the correct moral decision is allowed to the individual because they believe they can do whatever they want with their body, people can identify the justice that may not be served for close friends and family. Justice is not served because a lot of the time families and friends may feel left out of the decision of their loved one who may be dying or suffering of an illness. King explains that, “sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest”. While thinking in terms of morality, people should be able to do what they want with their bodies. And while it may be ‘unjust’ to keep it illegal in some states, families and friends may feel it is unjust to make a literal life changing decision without them.

A lot has changed over time thanks to Martin Luther King Jr., yet it is important to know that while justice and morality mostly go hand in hand, there is also an understanding of how they are not the same thing. People believe that when justice is served, the morality of the decision is correct. However, justice has a small sliver that may have instances where it’s unjust such as physician assisted suicide. And while King refers to God many times, he simply uses it as an argument to strengthen the difference between unjust and just laws. Yet it is important to keep in mind that King has, “tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends”.

“Letter From Birmingham Jail”: Martin Luther King Jr. Addresses Prejudice

In the “Letter From Birmingham Jail”, Martin Luther King Jr. addresses many problems about prejudice, He talks about what it felt like to be in the African American minority, and in the well-written letter he explains things like unjust laws, the impact -or lack thereof- that the white church had on racism at the time, and why he knew that they needed to take action or nothing would change. In his letter, King explains many different main ideas, the first being that the African Americans needed to demand their freedom. There’s a lot of examples in King’s letter that are based around that idea, but there’s another main idea that King talks about almost as much as the first; just and unjust laws. Throughout the first part of the letter King explains these two main ideas with many examples, informing the readers about what it feels like to be in the minority and using ethos, pathos, and logos to help sway the clergymen, but about midway through the letter he adds in another idea, In paragraph 32 and beyond King starts talking about how disappointed he is with the white church, and how unsupportive they were.

King’s use of pathos in particular is incredibly strong throughout the entire letter. He provides examples that would sway any decent person, and he really makes the readers thinkey were doing. His examples for all of the main points are incredibly shocking to the “white moderate” as he refers to them, but at the same time they weren’t shocking at all to the African American “minority” because they lived it every single day.

One of the main ideas that King not-so-subtly explains in the “Letter From Birmingham Jail” is why he knew it was time to take action. From the first paragraph King speaks of taking action, but he doesn’t really get into it until paragraph 13 when he says “We know through painful experience that freedom is not voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.” (King par. 13) King explains that freedom isn’t going to happen unless they demand it. They’ve waited for so long to gain their freedom and he doesn’t want to wait any longer, because waiting longer won’t fix anything. Anyone prepared with a counter-argument would claim that they were a little too violent when trying to gain their freedom, but King even has an answer to that; “So the question is not whether or not we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be.” (King par. 30) He says, after arguing that many intelligent historic figures were also extremists, and that in their extremism they accomplished more tasks than any lukewarm individual could have. He explains what happens when people are oppressed and what it feels like to be in the African-American minority. “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever, the yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that’s what has happened to the American Negro.” (King par. 29) Another good argument as to why taking action is in fact the only option. I strongly agree with everything King has to say about this because had he not taken a stand for what he believed in the African American community wouldn’t be where it is at today, and they may not have the rights that King worked so hard for.

The second idea, just and unjust laws, King addresses throughout the letter as well. He starts off with a definition of the two types of laws and then provides many examples. “How can you advocate breaking some laws, and obeying others? The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws, just and unjust. I would be the last to advocate breaking just laws. One has not only a legal responsibility but a moral responsibility to obey just laws, conversely one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws, I agree with St. Augustine in that ‘an unjust law is no law at all’.” (King par. 15) King informs the audience what an unjust law is, and tries to make them

understand that what they are doing is morally wrong. It helps the audience to understand what King is going through, and what he is trying to advocate. It makes him seem less like a lawbreaking citizen and makes him sound more reputable when he explains his point-of-view. King’s appeal to ethos in the 22nd paragraph was one of his strongest points in the entire letter, “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal’.” He reminds the audience about how morally wrong everything that Hitler did was, and used it to his advantage saying that there are certain morals that the law doesn’t cover that we should know to follow, things such as prejudice. In paragraph 18, King is still informing us about what an unjust law is. “Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law.” (King par. 18) His use of “let me give another explanation” shows that he wanted to make sure the clergymen understood what he was saying, he wanted to beat it through their heads that the laws enacted against African Americans were unjust, that they were morally wrong.

In my opinion, this main point is one of the strongest in the letter, he wanted to have more support on that issue, and he put a lot of emotion into this portion of the letter that it’s obvious he was passionate about prejudice, as he should have been. I love the way that he uses Hitler as an example, because it’s shocking to think about, but what Hitler did wasn’t at all morally right, however it was completely legal and it was definitely the part of the letter that made me think the most. The last main point of the article was how the white church was incredibly unsupportive. King starts off by talking about the “white moderate” but the farther he gets into it, he is more disappointed with the white church than he was with the “white moderate”.

“I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: ‘Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.’ And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, on Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.” (King Par. 36) King definitely wanted the clergymen to know how disappointed he was with them and the other members of the white church, as the church they should’ve stood up for King, and the rest of the African American community and they should’ve supported him in trying to get rid of the racial issues our country had at that time. “Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary negro men and women decided to rise from the dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest” (King par. 37) King was very obvious about his disgust for the white church not standing up for him or what they believed in, he wanted them to know that they were as wrong as the people who were completely against him, and that they weren’t doing what is right by standing back and ignoring the things that were going on at the time. He wanted the church to know that they were going against their beliefs, and that it was more than just him that was disgusted with the white church “Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.” (King par. 41) I loved the way that King was completely straight up about this subject, as a member of the white church I completely agree with him when he says that we are disappointed, I come across racist members of the white church even today and am completely disgusted by their actions. We are all created equal and anyone who doesn’t believe that is disgusting to me.

The entire letter in my opinion was incredibly interesting, and all of it is strongly worded. He was a very reputable individual, using sources like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and T.S. Eliot; even King himself was and still is a very reputable figure in history. I loved the letter in it’s entirety so it was very hard for me to word what I liked about every single quote because of how much I loved everything about every single quote. There really wasn’t anything in this letter that I thought was a weakness, he remained constant and gave credit when it was needed, he never really insulted anyone he just told them that what they were doing was wrong. All in all it was a great letter, and everything he wrote was crystal clear in my opinion.

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