Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Analysis

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Letter From Birmingham Jail The background of this speech is MLK Jr. has been imprisoned in the Birmingham jail after participating in a nonviolent protest in the streets of Birmingham. As a result of this protest eight white Alabama clergymen made a statement titled “A Call for Unity,” in which they criticize MLK Jr.’s involvement in Birmingham, viewing him as an “outsider” who causes trouble. Their view is that the battle for racial integration should be fought solely in the courts, not in the streets. The speaker’s (Martin Luther King’s) goal is to educate his fellow clergymen as to why he has come to Birmingham when he receives criticism from them calling his “present activities ‘unwise and untimely.’” His goal is to also persuade the clergymen that his non-violent protests are necessary. He begins by establishing rapport between himself and his audience by stating that he receives many criticisms and that he has personally decided to respond to this one because he believes the clergymen are “of genuine good will” and that their criticisms “are sincerely set forth.” The argument that the clergymen have used against King is that “outsiders [should not be] coming in” to Birmingham. King first starts to respond to this criticism by appealing to his ethos, stating that he has “the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.” He uses the authority that he has as the president of the SCLC to claim that he has a right to be in Birmingham “because [he] was invited [to Birmingham]” and that he has “organizational ties [in Birmingham].” He then proceeds to appeal to pathos when he compares himself to the Apostle Paul as a peacemaking, “gospel of freedom” teaching prophet who has come to Birmingham “because injustice is here” and he is answering “the Macedonian call for aid.” This appeal to religion is used because his audience is a

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