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Essay about Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail

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Rhetorical Analysis of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

In his essay "Letter from Birmingham Jail", Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. disproves the assumptions of people that believe racism is acceptable when he compares the maltreatment of blacks to the inhumane treatment of the Jews by Hitler. King establishes a relationship with his audience by connecting on a level that is larger than the exploitation of African American's rights. He forces his readers to think about the execution of millions of Jews that was ordered by Hitler. He makes it logically apparent in his letter that just because segregation is a law, it does not mean that it is just. These strong words by King help establish a common ground between himself and the reader that forces them to think about the immorality and injustice of their decisions. His thoughts and feelings are synonymous with the suffering experienced by African Americans in America during the civil rights movement.

King directly compares people who favor segregation to Adolf Hitler, and people in favor of equality to the Hungarian freedom fighters. By assigning such a bold title to the people who favor segregation he forces them to think about their position in the civil rights movement and also helps them realize that their actions are comparable to those of Hitler. By comparing himself and other pro-civil rights activists to the Hungarian freedom fighters, he shows a sign of pride in knowing that what he is doing is right.

King also establishes a common ground with his audience by showing that while what Hitler was doing was "legal", it was by all means very unethical. In addition he writes about how the Hungarian freedom fighters were committing "illegal...


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... does an exceptionally good job at making a connection between an African American citizen in favor of equality to people in favor of segregation. He is able to construct a common ground between his readers in many ways. King forces his readers to compare Hitler's genocide agenda to the suppression of African Americans in America. He is also able to connect with his audience on levels such as religion, law, and morality. His use of logic as a method to bypass racist feelings and ideas allows him to get his point across without his readers brushing off his letter as just another attempt for equality. Instead, he greatly influences his readers while they gain a significant amount of respect for his words and ideas.

Works Cited

Rottenburg, Anette. "Dr. Martin Luther King, Letter From a Birmingham Jail." Elements of Argument.. Boston: St. Martin's Press, 1991.


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