The letter from Birmingham jail was written April 16, 1963. Dr. Martin

The letter from Birmingham jail was written April 16, 1963. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
holds many titles to include Baptist minister, Nobel peace prize winner, Morehouse graduate,
husband and father to name a few. Dr. King is in jail for parading without a license in
Birmingham Alabama. Nine white clergymen wrote to Dr. King because they felt that his being
in Birmingham was unwise and untimely. This letter is a direct response to the clergymen. The
letter exemplifies his overall philosophy towards achieving civil rights. The Letter from the
Birmingham jail is a well written persuasive context and respectfully addresses his audience.
Several examples are used throughout the letter not only to give credit to the civil rights
movement, but for the audience to primarily understand his thoughts regarding justice. As a
minister of the gospel Dr. King uses well know biblical references to compel people to justice.
Dr. King is using the logos appeal to get the audience to see that logically what he is
saying is true because of his own situation when he discusses being arrested due to parading
without a permit. He agrees that there is nothing wrong with the law, but expresses his opinion
on how it becomes unjust when it’s used to segregate or deny people the privilege to protest
peacefully. The parading is necessary because Dr. King and the others that he paraded with
believed that injustice was all around them. The clergymen can respect Dr. King for his honesty
in that he is admitting to parading without a permit. They are also able to see the big picture of
the injustice.
Dr. King uses pathos by respectfully inviting the clergymen in. He is addressing them as
“Men of good will,” and he also state that their “Criticisms are sincerely set forth.” By using
these statements these men are easily persuaded to listen to what he has to say. They are able
to respectfully give their attention early on. The clergymen are able to see the level of respect
that he has for them, and they are able to give him that same level of respect.
After inviting the clergymen in respectfully, an example of logos is used to contradict
their idea that the Birmingham police force prevented violence. By using such statements as “if
you had seen their dogs sinking its teeth into unarmed non-violent negroes,” and “if you were
to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of negroes in the city jail,” “if you were to watch
the push and curse old negro women, and young girls.” The clergymen are able to visualize the
violent activity and imagine it being their grandmother, mother, or daughter and would not
want such acts of violence inflicted on their loved ones.
Because Dr. King gives examples of just and unjust laws saying that “an unjust law is a
code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not
make binding on itself,” and “unjust law is a code that a majority compels minority to follow
and that it is willing to follow itself” the clergymen are able to see the difference. On the one
hand unjust laws are about the majority, and on the other unjust laws are about the majority
controlling the minority. They can compare his definition to the action of the Birmingham
police, and they certainly have the law in black and white.
Dr. King uses the pathos appeal to connect the clergymen and their personal values and
beliefs. There is the connection between the biblical references and what they believe to be
true. He makes several religious references when he writes about the profits of the eighth
century and how they “left their villages carrying their thus sayeth the lord far beyond their
homeland.” By comparing himself to biblical prophets he effectively answers their criticism of
him. He also makes reference to the law of God, and describes Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego and their refusal to obey the law of King Nebuchadnezar on the ground that a higher
moral ground was at stake. He refers to the early Christians who were willing to” face hungry
lions and pain of chipping blocks rather than submit to a certain unjust law of the Roman
Empire.” These examples work for the clergymen because they know the stories to be true.
They are able to relate to the fact that these men in the bible had faith and trusted God. They
are also able to think about the men in the bible and compare Dr. King to these men to see that
he has faith in accomplishing justice for all people.
Overall Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used all three of the appeals, logos, ethos, and pathos
so that his audience is able to relate to the letter. He uses a number of examples of injustices
and supports the examples with actual facts of things that have happened. By reading the
letter the clergymen can relate to the injustices and they can relate to the need for justice for
everyone. When referring to the biblical passages these clergymen are able to see that Dr. King
is not just in Birmingham trying to stir up trouble. They are able to see him as a man of God just
as they are.