“Letter from Birmingham Jail” Guided Reading Class Work RI8, 9

“Letter from Birmingham Jail” Guided Reading Class Work
RI8, 9 – Analyze arguments in a seminal document (influential, decisive documents)
Part 1 - Important vocabulary - record in your notes.
cognizant – aware of
moratorium – temporary suspension/delay
precipitate – cause to happen suddenly
complacency – contented self-satisfaction
manifest – to show or reveal
mores – established customs and conventions
provocation – action intended to elicit an angered response retaliate – react, get even, get revenge
Part 2 – Analyzing his argument
p. 319
1. Arguments address specific claims and a specific audience. Identify one claim opposing King’s work to which he is
responding in the first paragraph of the letter. To whom is he responding, and why is this audience significant?
p. 320
2. There are 3 different reasons that King provides in his letter to justify his presence in Birmingham. One is
organizational reasons. One is religious or historical reasons, and the other is moral reasons. Choose one type of reason
and cite an example from lines 17-43 that fits your choice.
3. Allusion is a reference to something/one famous. Identify a religious allusion on the page.
p. 321
4. This page discusses recent events in Birmingham in detail. Why might King have taken the time so early in the letter
to delve into such minute detail about steps taken and recent events in Birmingham?
5. Why did the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agree to a moratorium on all direct
6. What might have happened if participants retaliated against police who struck blows?
p. 322
7. Cite text evidence – Identify all the instances of the word tension in lines 102 – 119 (how many times is it used?)
Identify the ways in which the meaning and tone of the word changes over the course of the paragraph.
p. 323
8. Parallelism is the use of similar grammatical forms to express ideas that are related or equal in importance. Identify
the parallel structure used in lines 150 – 160
p. 324
9. Seminal documents may refer to other seminal documents to support ideas. What other documents does King refer
to in lines 183 – 194?
p. 325
10. Strong arguments show a consistent awareness of audience. Cite two references or allusions in lines 204 – 211 that
are chosen to appeal to King’s audience of fellow clergymen. Why are these references well suited to King’s audience?
11. A well crafted argument moves from general ideas to specific examples. Starting in line 217, identify specific
examples that King provides to explain either unjust laws or the unjust application of just laws.
p. 326
12. Identify allusions used in lines 247 – 264. How does King uses these references to support his argument in favor of
civil disobedience?
13. Authors of arguments choose words carefully for their connotations (emotional connection/implication). What tone
does King create through his choice of words in lines 265 – 267?
P. 327
14. Every section of an argument contributes to its central claim and purpose. In lines 282 – 295, why did King discuss
white moderates, who were generally sympathetic to the cause of civil rights? What implied counterclaim does King
address here.
p. 328
15. A counterargument is when a writer addresses potential opposing views in order to discredit them. In lines 299312, identify the textual evidence King uses to assert that the actions of Birmingham’s African American community
precipitated violence and must be condemned. Explain one example King uses to address the clergymen’s statement.
16. Why is it important in lines 313 – 336 for King to address the counterclaim that African Americans will eventually
receive equal rights? Identify King’s counterargument and cite his reasons.
p. 329
17. Writers of arguments must clearly delineate claims. In lines 340 - 365, identify the “two opposing forces” King
discusses in this section, and how does King’s discussion of these two forces serve his purpose?
p. 330
18. Controlled use of repetition is a powerful rhetorical tool used by writers of arguments. How does King shift the idea
of being “extremist” from something negative to something positive?
p. 331
19. Identify words with a negative connotation. What way does King contrast these negative words with the positive
situation he is describing.
p. 332
20. Identify at least one contrast between what King expected from religious leaders and what actually happened. Look
at what is expected and what actually happened, how did this support his claim and address his audience?
p. 333
21. In lines 497 – 510, identify the central claim that King makes. What are the reasons and evidence he uses to support
p. 334
22. In lines 540 – 557, identify references to American history in this paragraph. How do these references support the
idea that African Americans deserve equal rights.
23. What counterclaim in the clergymen’s letter does King address in lines 558 – 570?
p. 335
25. Identify the type of provocation James Meredith undured.
p. 336
26. Identify two seminal documents that King references as historical allusions. What effect do these references have
on King’s audience?
Part 3 – Rhetoric Chart
Explore the rhetoric used in the letter. Find three examples (quote/line) for each of the following in the chart.
Pathos – appeal to emotions
Ethos – appeal to ethic (sense of right Logos – appeal to logic (makes sense,
and wrong, speaker is trustworthy)