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“Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King

Racism and racial inequalities, segregation, and discrimination are the most important problems that affected American society. Letter from Birmingham Jail was written in 1963 by Martin Luther King. This Letter is addressed to all black people and racial minorities who suffered from racism and discrimination. King appeals to black people expressing ideas of freedom and understanding of a free man, the importance of human rights, and racial equality for every citizen. Thesis Black people have the same rights and freedoms as other ethical minorities and should be equally treated by society and the state.

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All people are equal in their rights and freedoms. King appeals to the audience creating dramatic and vivid descriptions of hardship and casualties of life caused by racism and segregation. King moved cautiously, ever worried about the possibility of violence that could do irreparable harm to political struggle and social order. During this period of time, the main driven forces of the equal rights movement included a new perception of the world and self, a new interpretation of freedom and humans rights.

The historical events changed political standpoints on the issues of freedom and diversity of blacks and ethical minorities. King proves: “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: a collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action” (King 474). On the other hand, rights are particularly difficult to operationally in legal politics if the object of these rights is to protect indigenous identity. King claims: Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed” (King 478).

Since rights language is usually attached to the idea that individuals should be protected, it tends not to work well when applied to collectives. Racism also gives rise to conflict when a collective asserts its rights over individuals who also make rights-based claims. Image is central in his style. In the Letter, vivid and bright images support and sustain the development of concepts of racism and segregation.

King states: “our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us” (King 479). To their fullest, the images are used to intensify, clarify, to enrich the message and meaning. The distinctive feature of Letter is that the reader of such work is himself purged of emotional involvement, for instance, “we were the victims of a broken promise” (King 479). His emotional appeal is complex and achieved through emotional intensity. Morality is based on a simple contrast; natural instinct versus social hypocrisy, the goodness of heart versus cunning of the head.

Black people are citizens of America so they should be equally treated by the majority and the state. King vividly portrays that racial relations and racism cause labor division and class struggle. This universal process contains for America a special problem: the proletariat is largely black, and its demand for inclusion thus threatens the political control of a white minority. Using vivid examples, King states: “It is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative(King 481).

It is not surprising, therefore, if leading Black intellectuals attack the notion of racial democracy and seek to provide a new narrative that offers a central place to those of African descent. King states: law and order … become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress” (King 482). The enslaved African became a ‘citizen’ as stated under the law, but he also became a ‘nigger’, cornered from all sides.

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Using examples, King appeals to the audience stating that this was made apparent in the ways in which ethnic identities were subsumed, and still are, within and between economic identities, a political-economic class identity with the ethnic referent made invisible. King writes: “the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice” (King 482). Using vivid historical examples, King induces belief in an audience and appeals to their inner feelings.

Segregation and racial discrimination are unlawful, so they should be eliminated and prohibited by the state. In the Letter, King creates a vivid image of racial segregation as “a burden” with deprives many racial minorities of a chance to be free from oppression and humiliation. There is an intensity of illusion because the author is pres­ent, constantly reminding readers of his unnatural wisdom. The moral quality depends not on the validity of doctrines, but on the moral sense and arguments presented in the work. In both books, a certain amount of plot is based on emotional response. For instance, “oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.

The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro” (King 481). Exclamation marks, rhetorical questions, and parallel structure of sentences add emotional coloring. A personal tone is also an important element of his rhetoric because it creates a certain vision of segregation and inequality from the author’s point of view. This confidence is established in and by the speech itself and not through previous notions the audience may have of the speaker. To win trust, confidence, and conviction, the speaker exhibits intelligence, good sense, virtue, and goodwill. ” Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal” (King 481).

King describes the way and his moral choice. For King, this part is very important because it helps the writer to establish his ethical values as sensible, virtuous, and trustworthy. Also, King gives special attention to the character of his audience to which he suits his Letter. King appeals to the audience stating: “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal” (King 480). These lines show that segregation is unlawful and inhuman issues affected many societies and communities.

In sum, all black people are American citizens who have the same rights and freedoms as the white majority so they should be protected from segregation and discrimination practices. King supports this idea and states that what our society requires is intelligence, anti-discrimination laws, and ana­lytical interest, although, as we have seen, he is willing to accept responsibility in raising the reader to this level, he still pre­supposes a reader ready for the proper response. Dramatic descriptions and examples are foreshortened to achieve intensity, but in foreshortening, he uses dissimulation successfully in order to preserve the reality.

Works Cited

King, M. (2001). Letter from Birmingham jail. In S. Kilks, R. Hansen & M. Parfitt (Eds.), Cultural conversations: The presence of the past (pp. 472-486). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

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