Rhetorical Letter Analysis from Birmingham Jail

Rhetorical Letter Analysis from Birmingham Jail

Back in the early 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr wrote a letter while in Birmingham jail. It is one of the most inspiring documents in history. He got arrested during a peaceful protest. Besides, this was as a result of criticism activities in Alabama, Birmingham. Segregation was still a part of the culture in the United States. Together with his followers, they worked diligently to change citizen’s hearts towards isolation, social injustice, and discrimination. Let’s have a look at the letter from Birmingham jail rhetorical analysis.

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letter from birmingham jail rhetorical analysis

Here is a detailed piece about the letter from Birmingham jail rhetorical analysis. It covers the rhetorical devices used by Martin Luther King, Jr. Furthermore, you’ll understand how he used ethos, logos, and pathos to pass his message to the people. The article also reveals the benefit of this letter and other rhetorical strategies.

Rhetorical Devices Used In the Letter from Birmingham Jail

Just like any other field of human endeavor, technical vocabulary is a crucial writing necessity. Rhetoric devices help a speaker or author convey his or her message in a stylish and persuasive way. Here are some of the speech devices used by martin Luther King in the letter from Birmingham jail rhetorical analysis.

Direct references and Allusion

An allusion is one of the most potent devices used by King in the letter from Birmingham jail rhetorical analysis. It is merely the reference to a well- known symbol, events, text, or story in a culture. Generally, its main objective is to create a unique link for the audience and emphasize more on the writer’s views.

The letter from Birmingham Jail rhetorical analysis includes a broad context of direct references and allusions that can divide into several categories. For instance, King says, “five years ago, a great American in whose shadow we stand today signed the liberation assertion.”


Generally, analogies are simply comparisons. An author uses one event or individual to describe another incident, creating relations for the target audience. In Martin Luther King’s piece, you will realize that he uses several analogies to pass his message. For example, he draws parallels between the actions and historical figures that changed the society or his deeds as a civil rights advocate. letter from birmingham jail rhetorical analysis

The comparisons in his text are with Thomas Jefferson, Jesus, and Socrates (371-374). King also compares to Martin Luther (487-49), Abraham Lincoln (491-492), and John Bunyan (489-491.) In other words, he uses the ethos from these figures to achieve legitimacy and credibility.


As an author, you can use repetition as a tool to give a clear structure of your argument. It also highlights the most crucial aspects of a piece. In the letter from Birmingham Jail rhetorical analysis, King considers repetition in anaphora form.

Anaphora is the repetition of the same word(s) at the start of successive clauses, sentences, or phrases. A good example is the phrase “if you were to,” used by King to inspire his readers to empathy.

Rhetorical Questions

You can use rhetorical questions to introduce a new topic you are about to address. Martin Luther King Jr uses this device to reply to criticism from clergymen. King asked questions like, why direct action. Why marches and sit-ins? Why not give the new authority time to act? How can you support breaking some rules yet obey others?

Furthermore, King employs rhetorical questions to show how activists think. In this way, readers realize the sense behind the protests. He stressed more on better ways to stop political disputes, such as negotiations.

Similes and Metaphors

Metaphors and similes are essential in essay writing. King’s piece includes several cases where he uses metaphorical and descriptive language. They both helped in making more appealing and dynamic arguments.

For instance, King associates destiny with a piece of cloth, one that you can wear and share with friends. He says that today, we are in an inevitable mutual network, tied in a single garment of destiny. letter from birmingham jail rhetorical analysis

Religious Events and Figures

Martin Luther King was an inspired Baptist minister. He used non-violent ways in the civil rights association, such as religious philosophy, to settle issues. For that reason, it is not a surprise that his letter to Birmingham rhetorical analysis is full of spiritual references. His references are more relevant as the piece is a clear reply to clergymen’s criticism.

For instance, Martin mentions the eighth century B.C. prophets and Apostle Paul as good religious examples. They supported the idea that Christians should promote justice whenever injustices come in. By doing this, he set the motive to reject criticism present in Birmingham.

The Three Strategies in Birmingham Letter


Ethos is simply the qualities of an author revealed in writing. Sure, this varies from the writer’s tone, sentence length, stated concerns, word choice, and statement of emotions. Moreover, lived experience and character are two qualities that capture the reader’s attention, enhancing trust. Building such confidence is very crucial, as many will read and think about the writer’s arguments and position.

In the letter from Birmingham Jail rhetorical analysis, Dr. King quotes religious leaders like St Augustine as he creates his ethos. According to his piece, an unfair law is not law at all. He goes further to reveal his knowledge of the situations faced by the early Christian leaders. The primary aim for King is to stand firm just like Paul and respond to the call for aid. letter from birmingham jail rhetorical analysis

Dr. King not only explains his point of view on Paul’s response to Macedonian but also said that he is in a spiritual mission. Besides, he includes his feelings towards the situation at hand, stating specific facts. Martin Luther also notes that the fortunate groups hardly share their privileges with the needy. The inclusion of his feelings in this statement changes the reader’s understanding and stance. After all, this is a statement of fact, and it builds King’s ethos as a caring leader.

Dr. Luther also talks about his rebellion. Besides, this gave the readers a more direct point of view, inviting the audience to make judgments. A good example is when he asks why the new city government isn’t free to act. By introducing the resistance to segregation, many joined the movement.


Generally, the humankind responds mostly to emotions and personality. Pathos is a personal appeal to emotions. As a writer, you should engage the reader to feel the experience in your character. Dr. King employs the same strategy to spread his gospel in his letter from Birmingham jail rhetorical analysis. He vividly invites the audience to feel the lives of black Americans under the reign of segregation.

Through the deep experience in his essay language, readers feel the need to resist. Sure this is the main reason for the city protests. King also uses metaphorical language to invite the audience to associative bounds between unknown and prevalent incidents. Towards the end, he draws one rainstorm metaphor to move the readers through the emotions of their situation. Dr. King thought of it as dark clouds of social injustice, confusion, and fear drenched society. letter from birmingham jail rhetorical analysis

In the letter from Birmingham Jail rhetorical analysis, King is hopeful that there is a possibility to change the country through non-violent demonstrations. Besides, he speculates a bright future for the great nation filled with love and brotherhood. Through his association, many saw the end of segregated life. Dr. King also expects the non-minorities to glimpse the painful isolation and emotional experience.

Likewise, King employs a repetitive language to make emotions more appealing to the readers. Sure, this helps him emphasize more on his main argument. By repeating phrases and sentences, he builds both power and emotional momentum to resist dishonor among black Americans.


As a writer, you can employ the Logos strategy to appeal to the reader’s reasoning or logic. It is the presentation of a logical relation and argument for a specific situation. In most cases, logos involve a lot of statistics. Dr. King appeals to his audience by stating the thinking behind the Birmingham letter. He regrets to see how the black Americans suffer from denied freedom, saying the whites are more concerned about order opposed to justice.

Furthermore, his logic notes that the white moderate doesn’t appreciate that the law exists to establish justice among citizens. The tension is a result of black American segregation. King says that the anxiety will blow up into violence if there is no equality. Besides, he says that isolation is a way to deny blacks their dignity and worth as human beings. https://img.buzzfeed.com/buzzfeed-static/static/2017-01/12/16/asset/buzzfeed-prod-web-09/sub-buzz-24656-1484256204-1.jpg?downsize=600:*&output-format=auto&output-quality=auto

Moreover, you can use logos to see into presented facts. Dr. King quotes an old black woman saying his feet are tired, but the soul is at rest. Such an appeal emphasizes the lack of education among blacks. Besides, this was an awareness to draw attention to this fact.

King says that the uneducated know and sense the degree of segregation injustice. After all, they didn’t need rocket science to realize the inequality of their current situation. Quoting the older woman, Kings’ appeal to people’s emotions. Through the letter from Birmingham Jail rhetorical analysis, he encourages blacks to endure this march, fight for justice, and stop racial prejudice.

How Beneficial Is Mr. Luther’s Letter from Birmingham Jail?

Martin Luther King Jr writes the piece to defend his union’s actions. Besides, he appeals to both the black and white American community, the political, social, and religious society. The main objective of his movement was to encourage equality and solidarity as well as discourage segregation among all Americans. According to racial differences, many of them had no stratification. Here are three particular works showing how King’s political thought evolved.

Support for White Moderates

In the 1950s, King believed that the white southern ministers would provide moral leadership. He thought that the white racists could stop with the help of a minister who took a strong stand for equality. The main concern was his address on political advocacy. King was certain that there are open-minded moderates in the white south.

Dr. King urges the moderates to lead the city through its vital transition for equal treatment of black Americans. He reassures that the movement’s main objective was not to humiliate or defeat the whites but to win friendship and equality.

On the other hand, King is disappointed with the white who think they can set a timetable for other man’s freedom.

Moreover, King had hope for his mission. He worked hand to hand with white liberals like Myles Horton, the chief executive for civil rights organizer in Tennessee. Martin Luther King Jr also developed crucial alliances and friendships with the white supporters in other parts of the nation. Indeed, he was firm to fulfill black American ideals of equality and liberty.

The Call for Economic Fairness

In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr philosophy stressed more on economic justice and equality in the markets. He made clear relations between American social injustice at home and American violence in Vietnam. Before his execution, King stood at riverside church based in New York to explain the connection in the civil rights struggle.

King links the fight for economic justice with the earlier protests against the Vietnam War. He also succeeded in making essential allies. For instance, King connects with President Lyndon Johnson achieving significant lawmaking triumphs in 1964 and 1965. The friendship led to a series of initiatives to address the severe poverty issues at home.

Furthermore, the Johnson government increased United States troops in Vietnam. As a result, King’s mission grew drastically. He continued with an analysis of what connected violence and poverty both at home and overseas. King speaks out for those who lost their lands, homes, and culture. In other words, he spoke for poor Americans who paid the double price of smashed hopes and endless corruption.

The Radical Emperor

As a good leader, King planned for a poor people campaign aiming to bring thousands of resistant’s to the city. Besides, this was a call for an end to poverty, racial discrimination, and humiliation. Later in April 1968, the King was killed. The King Murder was a mass outpouring of sorrow and anger leading to riots in at least 100 U.S. towns.

Later on, one of the most visible Black powers manifested at the summer Olympics in Mexico. Groups such as the U.S. organization, the Black Panther, and the Republic of New Africa are heirs of King’s movement. These groups aim at building up the black community using social programs. Even though the King’s campaign declined in the 1970s, its impact is here to stay- for generations to come.

Dr. King’s dream evolved into a calling for a redistribution of resources and economic power. He remains to be the prophet of peaceful resistance. King goes further to urge the government to consider negotiations, direct action, and self-purification to check for injustice. Besides, he concludes that all those steps show a high degree of racial injustice engulfed in society.

Other Frequently Used Rhetorical Strategies.

Below is a list of some commonly used rhetorical devices in speech or writing a letter. If you want your essay to stand out for the reader’s attention, consider these strategies. Besides, they ultimately enhance your writing skills and cheer up your conversation.


Alliteration is the repetition in the initial consonant sound of a phrase or word. Here, you repeat most, if not all, of the terms with a consonant sound. Sure, this helps to convey a sense of lines. For example, Talking to Tyson took time today.

letter from birmingham jail rhetorical analysis


It builds upon a phrase, sentence, or word, inducing a sense of intensity and urgency to the reader. For example, Tom wants a perfect house in a perfect society. The repetition of the word ‘perfect’ shows significance.


Anacoluthon’s strategy brings a sudden change of ideas while adding emphasis to the central thought or argument in a conversation.


Anadiplosis uses the same phrase or word at the start and the end of every sentence. Besides, this device gives room for a chain of thoughts, enabling the readers to follow along with the presented points. In other words, it puts more emphasis on the main argument by stressing the vital ideas.


For you to end up with an antanagoge, consider positive and negative statements in one. Still, this device helps to present a problem together with an answer. When used correctly, it can yield to a well-developed communication approach.


Apophasis works the same way as irony. Here, you can promise not to use a particular phrase but end up with a statement mentioning the same. For example, I am not saying that it is your mistake, but you’re the one who killed the cat.


A rhetorical technique where the author changes the order of phrases and words to invoke a sense of strong feelings


Here, the speaker or writer asks a question and then provides the answer straight away.


A rhetorical strategy that uses a pleasant saying or phrase to convey less enjoyable or a more popular one.


By now, you have a clear view of the letter from Birmingham jail rhetorical analysis. You can use the same approach to write your essay to persuade the audience. Moreover, you can reach out to My Homework Writers for more information related to the Martin Luther King Jr Birmingham jail letter. Visit Myhomeworkwriters.com to boost your writing skills as we are the best academic writing service.

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