Throughout American history, it is clear that many individuals have fought for
justice in a society that has often denied it. We know this information from
documents written by these individuals expressing their feelings on a certain
subject. On the subject of human rights, two specific men have expanded
their thoughts to make a difference. The very popular Dr. Martin Luther King
, whose main philosophy on civil disobedience revolved around
nonviolence, wrote a “Letter From Birmingham Jail” to eight clergymen
informing them of the situation in Birmingham, Alabama, in April of 1963.
Henry David Thoreau, a 19th century individualist, wrote an essay called
“Civil Disobedience” in which he explained his reasons for not paying taxes
to a government that was involved in an unjust war with Mexico. Although
these works were written for different causes, the two are similar in some
ways. Both are similar in how they get the reader to see and feel what the
writter sees and feels.
Both men, King and Thoreau, used emotional appeal in their work.
This was used to gain support from the reader by creating a feeling of
sympathy to be felt by the reader.
Dr. King’s most emotional section was his
feelings on segregation. His feelings were based on how it was to be black
living in a segregated environment. This was extremely important
considering that he was directing his thoughts to the eight white clergymen.
He started a paragraph referring to the impact of segregation as “stinging
darts.” The following sentences gave examples of the segregation and what it
put black people through.
In one specific sentence, King used the image of
“you” having to tell “your” young, innocent child that she cannot go to the
amusement park simply because of the color of her skin. King wrote,
“…when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering
as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the
public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see
tears welling up in ger little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to
colored children…and see her begin to distort her little personality by
unconsciously developing a bitterness to white people…” Most people are
more sensitive toward young children and hate to see their feelings hurt.
Children are also a symbol of the future. Henry Thoreau also used emotional
appeal in “Civil Disobedience.” During the time he wrote this piece, slavery
was the biggest issue among Americans. He told about the injustice in having
slavery in a civilized society.
He repeatedly referred to slavery whenever he
began to talk about the government’s unjust laws. Many who believed in the
abolition of slavery may have sided with Thoreau on some of his feelings
about the government. His thoughts were appealing to many in the North or
Abolitionists. In one section of his essay he wrote, “When the majority shall
at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are
indifferent to slavery, or because there is little slavery left to be abolished by
One very common feature found in both the letter written by Dr. King
and the essay by Thoreau was that prison played a role in their struggles.
is logical appeal to the reader to know that these men were real not phony.
They truly believed in what they argued for. Both of these men were
incarcerated for doing what they believed was right. Dr. King was locked up
for protesting (nonviolently) and Thoreau was put in jail for not paying taxes
to the government which he felt was unjust. Martin Luther King Jr.
to spend his time in jail writing his letter to the clergymen for support. The
fact that he was prison showed the men that a fellow clergyman did in fact
need help in Birmingham, Alabama. Henry Thoreau deeply anylized his one
night experience. He gave the feeling of total seclusion from the world when
describing his jail cell. He spoke of the walls and door being solid stone and
a few feet thick. He felt that he was treated “as if I were mere flesh and
blood and bones, to be locked up.
Dr. King and Henry David Thoreau both also referred to the Bible or
God in their writing. King compared the injustice of the situation in
Birmingham to a similar event in the Bible. He wrote, “Just as the eighth
century prophets left their little villages and carried out their Thus saith .