Professor Liliana Naydan
English 15, Section 15
20 September 2004
Journal Prompt #4
Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham jail is written during the times of segregation as a response to a letter written by several clergymen. This letter addresses his actions and there necessity. King uses several methods throughout his letter to convince his readers of his point. First, he tells of how the nonviolent campaigns work, and then he reviews their necessity. He finishes examples of current conditions under which the African American society was enduring at the time. Throughout his letter he uses examples to better clarify the point he is presenting. He uses many writing techniques to do this.
King’s direct audience is the clergymen who wrote and signed the original letter speaking out against King's campaign. His letter reaches further than these eight men though, and addresses the society as a whole. King addresses the churches as being corrupt and no longer speaking for what is morally correct but instead for the status quo. He addresses the legal system in this same manner stating that the laws no longer follow the law of god and morals but are holding on to the status quo. This letter is meant to speak to everyone who is resisting change and is against King’s campaign.
King’s letter aims at changing the ideals of the society at the time and bringing more to understand his and his follower’s point of view. He wants people to understand that his campaign is used as a last resort and all other options were used and it has come to this. He wants others to understand that he is not breaking the just laws of society or the laws of God, but is doing what is morally right. King wants his readers to understand that laws that are morally wrong should not be followed because morals should be valued over law.
King established credibility through the many examples and ideas he borrowers from other well-known and respected people. Several times he relates the life of Jesus Christ to his campaign making it hard for any good Christian not to agree with him. The use of religion in this argument adds the most credibility to Martin Luther King’s argument because he relates the persecution suffered by Jesus to the ordeals incurred by the African American society. The references to Socrates and former presidents add a tremendous deal of credibility to this writing. He uses quotations from these past figures to back up his stance on the issue and demonstrate why he is right in his decision.