AP Language
Analyzing Letter from Birmingham Jail according to Aristotle’s Rules
Rhetorical Analysis Timed Essay
Introduction:
Aristotle is generally credited with developing the basics of the system of rhetoric that has
influenced the development of rhetorical theory from ancient through modern times. The
Rhetoric is regarded by most orators as the most important single work on persuasion ever
written.
During his education, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. read Aristotle among other philosophers,
sociologists, and economists.
Written in April 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail delivered an
important statement on civil rights and civil disobedience. The 1963 racial crisis in Birmingham,
Alabama, was a critical turning point in the struggle for African American civil rights. Although
King's letter was not published until after the Birmingham crisis was resolved, it is widely
regarded as the most important written document of the modern civil rights movement and a
classic text on civil disobedience.
Question:
How would Aristotle have assessed King’s letter?
Directions:
Using only TWO of Aristotle’s tenets of “good” writing, evaluate TWO paragraphs from Letter
from Birmingham Jail. You may choose any two tenets and any two paragraphs, but do not use
more than two of each.
You will be directed through the following timetable:
Prewriting—5 minutes
Drafting—30 minutes
Editing—10 minutes
Final draft—20 minutes
Proofreading—5 minutes