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Rhetorical Analysis: The Peace Keeper Behind Bars - Letter from Birmingham Jail

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The Peacekeeper Behind Bars: Letter from Birmingham Jail

In Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Dr. King appeals to his readers’ mind and moral compass as he makes references to American ideals of freedom and justice, the moral authority of Christianity, and the pain being inflicted upon the African American community. King also showcases his rhetorical talent through his use of metaphors and allusion that he perfectly weaves into his argument in order to spark the reader’s emotions while conveying factual evidence by giving historical context. King is able to convey his argument by appealing to not only the emotions of the reader through the use of pathos but by using logical facts while citing several historical events and figures as his compelling argument picks up where the previous freedom fighters had started by leading the peaceful battle against racism.

Historically, many of Dr. King’s literary works were specifically designed on inspiring emotional feelings from the audience, while in this case King’s use of pathos is mainly about all of the suffering the African American community has faced for the past years. Dr. King then uses imagery for the audience by painting a vivid idea of what African Americans have to deal with on a daily basis - this imagery of pain and suffering is critical for understanding why Dr. King’s argument makes factual sense. King first proclaims how he finds himself “tongue twisted” and his speech “stammering” as he tries to explain to his six year old daughter as “tears are welling up in her eyes” that she is not allowed to go to the amusement park that was just advertised on TV because “Funtown is closed to colored children.” (Norton pg.819). King allows white people to see the pain inside the youth of the African American community as he puts it into perspective by making white people think of how hard it would be to tell their kids that they cannot go to an amusement park because of their skin color. King is able to further seduce the reader’s emotions as he asks why African Americans have to go through all of the injustices that they have been punished with throughout history by alluding to the historical context of the struggle for black people in America. Dr. King uses the historical evidence to strengthen his argument as he hints that if white people went through all of this and understood the pain the African American community had to experience daily, then that they would all be in full support for change.

Dr. King is also able to further connect to the emotions of the audience through listing the horrendous actions that have been done to the black community that were authorized by the criminal justice system. For example, King goes on to highlight how police misconduct against minorities has gone unnoticed as he begins by saying how he knows no one would admire a police officer if they “were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes in city jail.” King then continues to visualize the inhumane treatment of negroes in jail as he documents how officers would “push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls”. The details of King’s insights get violent as he talks about how police are “slapping and kicking old Negro men and young boys.” (Norton pg.822). In modern times, with the popularity of social media, a lot of police misconduct has come to the public's eye; while in the 1960’s, the only way for news to cover these tragedies would be if the victim got their account published in the paper. Dr. King is using pathos while portraying events in a fashion where if a white person were to read the quotes

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