"Letter from Birmingham Jail" By Martin Luther King: Critical Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1717 Words
Date:  2022-04-11


The letter from Birmingham Jail was a letter from Martin Luther King as a response to previous messages addressed to him by eight white clergies. In the essay, King discusses various aspects of his non-violent movement against the deep-rooted racial discrimination and injustice administration of civil rights against the black population in America. This paper will explore the author's point of view in the contribution to the literary work while recounting on the ironical account of the racial prejudice and victim of circumstance. Therefore, the work will explore King's informatory positions, persuasive descriptions, humorous literary devices, and exploratory features applied to make the text more appealing to the audience - both the clergy and the reader signifying the writer's viewpoint when narrating the recount.

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Writing the letter from Birmingham Jail King applied his prominent voice throughout the essay to address the purpose of his writing. He makes his intentions apparently known from the beginning to the end of the text by presenting the two sides of the story in his opinion of the issues at hand. The use of direct personification of issues gives the piecework of literature essential understanding of the informatory role King plays in this essay. The opening statements King calls his intended audience "My dear fellow Clergymen" from this point of view he was aware of the prominent position held by the eight men he was writing the letter. The use of the term fellow shows his perception on their equality in the clergy positions they held. Further, the opening statement he informs them of his whereabouts despite their prior knowledge. King is sarcastic when he signifies that though he was in jail due to the just and unjust judicial system in America, telling his audience, he was there for a calling. King does not hide his dismay of the eight following their perception of his role in civil right movement when he tells them "....I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas......." The tone applied in the remarks is to enlighten his audience that the letter was not a form of justification for his past actions. He shows his hostility towards them explaining his opinion of their racism traits. Throughout this humorous essay, King condemns his audience revealing his apartheid towards white people.

The essay "Letter from Birmingham Jail" by MLK is an informatory point of reference showing a black man's viewpoint advocating for justice for him and the alike. King shows his quest for just society when he states that "......I am in Birmingham because injustice is here and injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere .......". His strong condemnation of racism gives detailed accounts of his opinion on matters he felt were warranting. Through the creative flow of his accusations and counter-accusations, King makes it known to the clergymen and any other reader on his opinion and urge for peaceful negotiation, criticism of racism and advocating of inclusive civil justice. The use of his firm and a prominent voice in the whole account MLK shows his dissatisfaction in the white clergymen's silence on the perpetration of justice in the society prompting his anger towards them to show their reluctance signifies their satisfaction with the current situation in America by stating that ".....We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.....". The essay successfully plays a significant to enlighten the immediate audience and other readers on the hard times the black populating were living during the racial segregation era. King uses this text to incriminate and makes the eight clergymen feel his disappointment, anger, and remorse.

The essay expansively exploits the use of persuasive speech when responding to the inner feelings of the author. The language structure applied in the article fights oppression in contradiction of humility. King is successful in persuading the reader on the effectiveness and the positive perception he holds towards the pathetic situations he finds himself. The use of interactive language makes his work arrest his readers throughout the text. For instance when the state: "......Listening with understanding........" The use of this dialogue style of communication persuades the feelings of the audience to identify with the challenges facing Kings in and out of jail. King capitalizes on the actuating elements of communication by citing numerous examples to justify his viewpoint. For example, to address his fellow black people outside Birmingham in the essay he states that "........A law is unjust if it inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law........" Though the letter intended to communicate as a reply to previous letters condemning him from his fellow white clergymen dissatisfied with his civil rights movements, King uses the same platform to enlighten his alike on the injustice of the laws inflicted on them by the whites. He further interestingly convinces them when he disapproves their efforts by telling them that "......You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions......" Kings is convincing in his application of commentary approach of the role of the clergymen and their position in the racialized society.

The entire essay by MLK carries substantial weight in describing unique approaches to liberate the society from segregation. But, some fascinating aspects applied by King when addressing the issues he felt warranted redress showed a unique understanding of the problem and the instigators of the problem. For instance, when King told the audience that his movement was geared to bring stakeholders onto a roundtable for dialogue they were also eager to see commence. The influential role the whole ordeal plays entices a reader to gain new insight in dealing with issues affecting them in life. The argumentative development of the work from King in this essay "Letter from Birmingham Jail" developed ethos, logos, and pathos to show the credibility of his persuasive appeal to the audience.

The essay plays an exciting role throughout the text; Kings makes humorous recounts that makes his readers enjoy the presentation of exposing unknown accounts of the most forms of discrimination and denial of justice in the American history. The use of understatements when showing the representation of public knowledge on the just and unjust laws undermining the black population's hope makes an appealing connection for enticing the reader understands the seriousness of the situation in America rather than the sympathy of his current position. The choice of topic for the essay "Letter from Birmingham" is a figurative speech to symbolize the author's perception of his current situation and sarcasm to remind his audience of his consciousness of his status - a convict. The application of humorous devices in the article has enhanced the success of the real contribution of MLK on the threats of finding justice in America.

Addressing the criticism of the works that lead to him being in jail, King develops rhetorical sarcasm and irony to entertain his audience and show his consolations on his endeavors. King states that: ".......If I sought to answer all the criticism that crossed my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day......" in the actual sense literal understanding of his choice of language was humorous because being in jail he couldn't have a secretary; and despite him opening the letter by telling his audience he was here to answer their previous questions, he uses irony to say to them that his main point was not to reply to their criticisms.

The author employs burlesque when he presents the controversial mockery when he writes that: ".............more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their thus saith the Lord far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid......." From the biography of King, we know him to be a priest but when he mocks his audience quoting the moral injustices he successfully makes entertaining aspects to address all intents and purposes for his writing. Further the use of hyperbole to show that the though the eight clergymen were ministers of the gospel like himself they disapproved his quest for justice and the irony form, King, questions their integrity as clergies.

The author's relationship with the issue shows Kings firsthand role in advocating for justice for the entire American population despite their color. King is entirely agitated by the segregation and racism issues affecting the people of his times. He is quick to show the vastness of injustice practices both in outside Birmingham Jail. He is hostile towards his critics for his excellent course and fails to understand their role in ensuring human justice advocated for all. In writing to the clergymen, King is hoping to reach out for dialogue with their oppressors and the black voice. The text played a significant role in creating hope for the fellow black people that even in his captivity he was still fighting for their common just.


The argumentative essay hopes to testify to King's struggle for civil rights accomplishment. He feels that locking him in jail was not a punishment but a chance to further this movement to advocate for just laws with the affiliated. In this complete recount of his relation and connectedness with the situations surrounding him shows his positive mindedness to make the world a better place for all. In his quest to advocate against racism and discrimination, King enlightens his audience of the pathetic condition both free and jail black people facing to arouse their sympathy for his alike.

Works Cited

King Luther, Martin. "Letter From Birmingham Jail." The Blaire Reader. Exploring Contemporary Issues 6th Ed. Eds. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell, Upper Saddle River, NJ Prentice Hall 2008. 741-756.

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"Letter from Birmingham Jail" By Martin Luther King: Critical Essay. (2022, Apr 11). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/letter-from-birmingham-jail-by-martin-luther-king-critical-essay

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