Arturo Menendez
Per 3 A.P. English
4/26/96
Ms. Salesky
King\'s Works: An Analysis Martin Luther King Jr., one of the greatest speakers for the Black civil rights movement, had written many great works in his time. Two of his pieces stand out as his greatest works, Letter from Birmingham City Jail; a letter written from a jail in Birmingham where he was arrested for demonstrating peacefully, to clergymen who didn\'t agree with his views, and I Have a Dream; a speech given by King in front of the Washington Memorial at a huge civil rights tea party. Both works convey the same message: the time has come where Black Americans will not stand for civil injustices any longer. The way in which the works are written, however, are different, for one is a letter, to be read by a few, and the other is a speech, to be heard by many.
A Letter from Birmingham City Jail is exactly that; it is a letter King wrote to a group of clergy members who disapproved of his actions in Birmingham City. The fact that this is a letter is blatantly apparent right from the beginning, King\'s use of first person clearly defines it as him talking to the clergy members, not a convention, or a rally, nothing general.
In his first paragraph, King establishes why he is in Birmingham, however, he is not clear, as he states, ". . . [he], along with several members of [his] staff, [are] [there] because [he] was invited [there]. [He] is here because [he] has organizational ties [there].". In other words, he was there because what he does brought him here, kind of like a job.
In the second paragraph, he becomes crystal clear, by stating that he is " . . . in Birmingham because injustice is [there].". Not only does he present why he is there, but he justifies it by alluding to biblical characters such as "the Apostle Paul", and "Paul" who did the same. Not only is this a show of intellect, but it is as well an appeal to the senses of his audience, for they are, after all, clergymen, and he has justified his actions on their terms.
By the fifth paragraph, he has stopped trying to use rhetorical devices, and is well into stating the cold hard facts about the injustice of Birmingham. He states facts that were obvious to his audience, but they were unwilling to admit to themselves. Amongst them were the fact that "Birmingham [was] probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States.", and that "Its ugly record of brutality [was] widely known." Not only that, but that "Negroes [had] experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There [had] been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation.".These are the main point of the letter, the injustices that King is trying to get rid of.
He goes on to explain how he could understand how they might be upset their " . . . willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern.". By saying so, he has express a concern that he really does care about what they think. So, he goes on to explain that " . . . there are two types of laws: just and unjust." He also explains that he " . . . would be the first to advocate obeying just laws.One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.". The use of antithesis works to accentuate his statement, and then, he not only states it as his own, but ". . . agree[s] with St. Augustine that \' an unjust law is no law at all\'". Making this biblical reference not only proves that his views are shared by others, but that they were in the bible, shared by a saint.
After much explanation and re-iteration, King starts getting simple, and switches from the abstract to the concrete, giving examples of what he is trying to get across; this is almost insulting, but King wants to make sure to get his point across. He speaks of a law being " . . . unjust if it is inflicted on