Dr. King's Letter From Birmingham Jail Term Paper

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Dr. King's Letter from Birmingham Jail

During his extraordinary career, Martin Luther King addressed not only the needs of his negro audience, but also communicated effectively with his opposition in order to make his message of equality and tolerance even more effective. Furthermore, his iconic strategy of non-violent protest created a platform of effectiveness that would not otherwise have been possible. In his "Letter From Birmingham Jail," he uses this platform to argue against his opponents, a group of eight clergymen who considered his non-violent protests in appropriate in the context of a "peaceful" city. Dr. King's letter is also effective in terms of acknowledging the viewpoints advanced by the clergymen and attempting to respond to each on the terms they were delivered to him. Martin Luther's rhetorical power, then, lies in his ability to identify with his audience, acknowledge the opposing viewpoint, and in responding to these viewpoints in a rational and logical manner.

Dr. King's letter opens with a paragraph that acknowledges the position of his opponents. Rather than placing himself in a directly opposing position to them, he professes a sense of identification by referring to them as his "fellow clergymen." As such, the author uses the similarities between himself and his audience rather than their differences to start the communication process. By doing this, he provides a platform in which communication, rather than fighting, can take place.

It is from this introductory platform that Dr. King then structures his rhetoric in terms of the opposing arguments advanced by the clergymen. What makes this strategy powerful is that Martin Luther King does not directly oppose his critics. Instead, he carefully considers their arguments and replies by an equally carefully considered opposing argument.

In summary, Martin Luther King replies to his critics by making the strongest case possible for his non-violent protests and the reasons behind these. He notes that the recognition of African-Americans as part of a sociological structure that is primarily equal among the races is not only sociologically viable and morally required, but also religiously sound. Indeed, he spends a large portion of his writing in providing religious grounds for his arguments. Considering his audience, this is perhaps Dr. King's strongest rhetorical device.

When more specifically regarding the author's consideration of opposing viewpoints, it becomes clear that he names the opposing argument followed by a response. One notable example of this is the claim that Dr. King and his followers are "outsiders coming in." To this, Dr. King replies that his presence in Birmingham is the result of an invitation from his peers. Since he was invited, his presence cannot be considered that of an outsider.

Another interesting example is the claim that Dr. King's protests, although peaceful, instigate violence. This claim solicits a rhetorically rich response; Dr. King begins a series of parallels by starting each sentence with the phrase "Isn't this…" by posing these as questions, the author solicits critical thinking. Again, this is a clever use of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Dr. King's Letter From Birmingham Jail."  Essaytown.com.  April 11, 2011.  Accessed December 12, 2019.
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