Letter From Birmingham Jail Argument Analysis

You have probably heard about Martin Luther King and his achievements. The analysis of his Birmingham letter continues to happen over time.  Life has not always been easy for the Black Americans, as racism and segregation meant constant sidelining and segregation. One of the famous early fighters of justice was Martin. He was at the forefront of this fight, making it possible to look at the letter from Birmingham jail argument.

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Letter From Birmingham Jail Argument Analysis

From the letter from Birmingham jail argument analysis, several things are clear. The fight for equality is not a recent occurrence. Segregation was declared unconstitutional in the Supreme Court after the case of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

Unfortunately, this did not end in the South through the early 1960s. Perpetrators of the oppressing rule saw to it that white and black Americans were separate as much as was possible. Everything from restaurants, hotels, and even bathrooms were marked. Consequently, thousands of the black community had no basic education rights, a right to vote, or basic economic opportunities.

Things might have been different if the segregation was peaceful and non-violent. Sadly, most blacks, after intimidation had to face a lot of violence. In addition to that, Supremacists bombed homes and churches belonging to blacks. Racial slurs were commonplace, not to mention the rapid vigilante killings against the black populace. Unfortunately, no ruling favored the blacks even when there was evidence to prove otherwise.

Hard Life for the Black American

One of the worst places to have been black during those days was Birmingham, Alabama. Martin’s crew, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), chose to do something about the segregation laws by organizing a demonstration. This resulted in a lot of arrests, including Dr. King. While in his jail in Birmingham after the arrest, he got to read a publication made by white clergymen. The write-up urged blacks to wait for the ruling of the court since that is what Jesus would do.

They went ahead to describe Martin as an outsider from Atlanta. He and the other protestors were considered trouble makers. To make it worse, the clergymen appreciated the police’s efforts of being gentle, which was not the case. While Martin hardly responded to such things, it appears as though he had much time this time around. It explains the birth of the letter from Birmingham jail analysis over the years. Experts like Myhomeworkwriters.com do an excellent job of breaking it down.

Letter from Birmingham jail purpose

Letter From Birmingham Jail Argument Analysis

Ever wondered why you should care about the letter of Birmingham? What is the hype about the letter from Birmingham jail rhetorical analysis? Well, this is a life-changing letter that brought a lot of things to perspective. Apart from the obvious biases in the letter, it showed people resilient enough to want better for themselves. While Martin may not have lived long enough to witness many of the changes that came with the protests he championed, life would have been worse than it is today for the Black Americans if no one stood up for justice. But what is this letter all about?

What is the main purpose of the letter from Birmingham jail

Do you know what the letter from Birmingham jail main points are? Martin may have had a great reason for writing his letter. Seeing that he hardly responded to critics, but still chose to do so, in this case, is crucial. He desired to see a changed population, free from hate. The fact that this is not the case even today makes his letter very relevant. He dreamt of a time when the skin color would not be the reason people would look at each other differently.

The famous doctor was not a stranger to police cells. His arrest happened a couple of times for defying the lows on racism. His idea was to change the law by rejecting and defying those that made blacks seem like lesser humans. Having been a preacher made it easy for Martin to stand for the truth. It is safe to say that his letter is why African Americans can walk into any hotel today without worrying.

The letter brought to light a lot of things. First, the white community in the rest of America understood the happenings and segregation taking place in other parts of America. Additionally, black Americans, on the other hand, were motivated to fight for their rights.

Letter from Birmingham jail summary

Letter From Birmingham Jail Argument Analysis

Before getting into the letter from Birmingham jail analysis, it is important to have a summary of it all. Dr. Martin was arrested and jailed in Birmingham for his protest against segregation. He read a criticism letter from 8 white clergymen in the local newspaper. Choosing to respond to the letter, Martin wrote to the editor, giving the clergymen a piece of his mind.

The smart doctor used the opportunity to inform everyone about his plans and ideologies. It turns out that he and his team of protestors were not out to make noise without a deserving course in mind. They were fighting against a rotten system with systemic racism issues. Theirs was a fight of truth, with America and Jesus on their side.

His letter further explained why protestors violated the unjust laws on racism. Martin further expressed his disappointment in the clergymen in the South. They would be considered hypocrites seeing how they said to support his course but disliked the unrest and tension caused.

Letter from Birmingham jail analysis ethos pathos logos

A proper analysis of the Letter from Birmingham Jail reveals that there is a little of everything in it. The writer has a way of appealing to the interest of whoever reads this letter. At the same time, he alludes to the Christian Tradition moral. He also captures the American ideals and general suffering of the African American people. Below is a closer look at each of these elements.


Letter From Birmingham Jail Argument Analysis

The author fails to use ethos explicitly except for when he introduces himself as the SCLC leader. In this letter from Birmingham jail argument analysis, we get to see how Martin applied ethos. He accepts that he is not the best authority in matters to do with Jesus, and neither a political strategist.

However, how he chooses to frame his stakes and arguments portray him as a man of integrity and moral truth. Doctor King uses a lot of biblical evidence to outshine his religious critics. This is the same strategy he uses to point out American ideals, especially when he mentions great Americans like Abraham Lincoln. There is no question that he has high ethical standings, especially when he recognizes the clergymen’s sincerity and credibility.


Emotions and inspiration may be the basis of the letter, but pathos still comes out in the letter from Birmingham jail argument analysis. The parts about the suffering of the African American community bring this out. He makes the reader understand the reason behind the unjust situation for his argument to make sense. Martin then paints a vivid image of what Black Americans endure during the segregation in the South.

Examples used in the text describe the suffering blacks go through, especially when kids are involved. It makes it relatable, especially to the whites who read the letter. When he describes how the legal system treats African Americans, readers cannot help but be empathetic. Police misconduct was rampant in the days, and no one could do anything about it.

White people can understand when the description of what blacks are going through. Making them see their relatives or close friends in similar situations meant they could feel pity. When he explains the beauty of a future America, he portrays a beautiful nation. He always pointed out the picture of hope and brightness.


When looking at the letter from Birmingham jail argument analysis, logos come out clearly, too. This is one of the most logical arguments Luther King has ever made. Facts of a difficult situation are addressed out rightly in a way that critics fail to.

It provides details of the political situation at the time, describing possible ramifications of disobedience. Non-violent disobedience also comes through as a great alternative to other forms of protest, and we see why. Every argument brought forth by the eight white clergymen is dismantled and refuted one after the other.

For instance, when he argues that following laws is mandatory, but not when the laws are unjust. However, to win people on this idea, he does more than trigger their emotions. He writes continuously like a legal expert, lawyer, where he defines just and unjust laws from different fronts. He captures examples of unjust laws. The point is to ensure readers understand what democracy is from an expert point of view. In addition to his great thunderous voice, Dr. King remains in the memory of most people for his logical arguments.


To properly analyze this letter, we have to look at different aspects of the letter as follows:


This letter is a combination of a manifesto, essay, and pamphlet all in one. The captured message is clear and rhetorical at the same time, making it an essay. A closer look reveals that it aims at getting political support and action, making it a pamphlet. It serves as a primer for anyone new to the idea of non-violent civil disobedience and civil rights movement making it a manifesto.

Even so, it serves as a direct response to the editor from the eight clergymen, meaning it is an epistle. The response confines itself to matters raised or alluded to in the first letter. In addition, it addresses the clergymen directly using biblical illustrations, and Christian vocabulary.

Tone used

It is safe to conclude that Martin used both righteous and measured tones in his letter. He backs up every said statement with a spiritual, moral, or biblical understanding. You can easily feel his willingness to suffer, his courage, and discipline through every word. No matter how angry he was, Dr. King always maintained his cool in all his writings. Even when he is expressing harsh sentiments towards racism perpetrators, he tends to curve his words in a reconciliatory manner. His inner diplomat always came up every time he concluded his letter with a disclaimer.

Writing Style

Many would consider his writing technique as inspirational. His preaching career may have been the motivating factor behind this. He was also incisive in the sense that you can point out his clear thought-process. If there was a man who could dismantle arguments precisely, King was this man. The poetic nature of his writing also comes out clearly in the letter.

Letter from Birmingham jail analysis by paragraph

To better understand the letter’s content, it helps to look at it in sections as follows:

Section 1: Introduction—Describing his Presence in Birmingham

Martin responds to the clergymen based on what he terms as their genuineness. He addressed the issue of him not being from Birmingham. To this, he responds with a famous quote. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. It mattered not where he came from as long as there was an injustice to be fought.

Section 2: Exploring the idea of Non-Violent Direct Action

Here, the doctor explains a few behind-the-scenes decision-making. This help in debunking the idea of demonstrators attempting to cause chaos without minding possible outcomes and consequences. Taking a step further, he explains how the surfacing of underlying social tension helps in the fight against injustice.

Section 3: The Long Wait

This section of the letter from Birmingham jail argument analysis covers the why question of the letter. The doctor describes the historical context of the Black struggle. He explains how Black Americans keep waiting for justice in vain and capturing the intolerable nature of the situation. His argument is that when white people knew what blacks went through, then they can offer their support

Section 4: Good Vs. Bad Laws

This part captures the core of King’s philosophy. As his opponents keep calling for law and order, his mission is to bring attention to the unjust practices. He focuses on discriminatory laws which he feels should be non-existent in America. Logically, he points out the difference between unjust and just laws. Using the Nazi example in Germany, he shows how unjust practices have always been done under legal terms.

Section 5: Expressing his disappointment in the White Moderates

At this stage, Dr. King does not hide his disappointment with the clerics. The letter from Birmingham jail argument analysis explores how these church leaders claim to be against segregation but avoid violence. King believes that justice has a lot to do with actions done regularly over time. It has to be a gradual but regular thing.

Section 6: Disappointment with the Church

This letter from Birmingham jail argument analysis is incomplete without putting the church in the spotlight. The clergymen were not the only people Martin put on the spot. He believed that the Civil Rights Movement should have the support of white churches and other regional Christian organizations. Unfortunately, this was not the case. However, he also acknowledged the efforts of white people, including the clergy, who worked with him an others. His hope was that the church would adopt the move toward justice to make it real.

Section 7: No Backing Down

Briefly, the doctor becomes extremely inspirational when he expresses confidence in the Civil Rights Movement’s future wins. This is a crucial part of the letter from Birmingham jail argument analysis. It captures the undying resilience of the black American people. Martin goes ahead to recount how the black people overcame slavery, meaning racism will also be conquered. With the Christian founders on their side, the fight was won.

Section 8: Eyes on the Police

A complete letter from Birmingham jail argument analysis captures the aspect of police brutality. When the eight white clergymen insisted that the Birmingham Police was enforcing the law, King decided to set things straight. He describes police real nature during demonstrations as well as when people were in jail. King wonders what the praises were about when he believes the real heroes are the demonstrators.

Section 9: The Bottom Line

As part of the conclusion of the letter from Birmingham jail argument analysis, describing how Martin concludes is crucial. The letter ends politely and properly. King expresses his hope for a better future. He also proposes to meet the clergymen soon. His conclusion is a poetic style expressing his desire for a future racial free America.

Letter from Birmingham jail 9 criticisms

A number of criticisms come out clearly from the letter from Birmingham jail argument analysis. They are:

  • King had no right as an ‘outsider’ to disrupt the happenings in the City of Birmingham
  • King acted inappropriately, trying to communicate using public demonstrations.
  • It would have been better to negotiate as opposed to direct action.
  • The African American community needs to be patient and await the society’s move towards civil rights.
  • Breaking laws is illegal, whether just or unjust.
  • When the society is provoked and takes to the streets, then they only trigger violence.
  • Direct political actions such as those at the Birmingham demonstrations represent extremist acts.
  • The police were always polite and patient when handling demonstrators
  • There are no unjust laws, and all people should abide by the rules regardless of how they feel.

Letter from Birmingham jail annotated

You may have come across several letter from Birmingham jail quotes that form excellent additional notes on the subject. Martin Luther King is one of the most popular Americans in history. His excellent speech making resulted in numerous quotes for which he is still remembered for. He was not only a great narrator but one who was eloquent in speech.
The letter from Birmingham jail argument analysis is a deep and detailed subject. It captures the historical injustices, and fight against racism as started and tackled by one of the greatest freedom fighters, Martin Luther King.

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