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    The Racial Equality in Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr.

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    In Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King’s use of Ethos Pathos and Logos combine into a monumentally heartfelt for racial equality, one that still resonates to this day.

    King’s use of Ethos can be seen predominantly in his opening salvo, where he eloquently explains the “reasons’ why he is now in a jail cell in Birmingham. These of course are not the reasons given by the police, but are rather the circumstances leading up to his arrest. He highlights his leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and their alliance with many groups of that same type, and he also highlights that he would be anywhere where there is racial injustice.

    Near the end of the letter he also highlights his roots in the ministry, in Christianity and as a moral Christian, All of this together paints King as one who truly is only fighting for love and equality. That he is basically the same as those he is writing too, only his skin is dark and theirs is not.

    King’s use of Pathos can be seen masterfully applied throughout his writing. One of the most predominant examples of King’s emotional appeal is when he begins laying out exactly what it is like to live on the wrong side of segregation, the pain and humiliation of being called derogatory names like Negro and boy, and how painful it is to have to explain to your child the absurdity and pain of the whole situation. In this he is not writing as a minister or a civil rights leader, he is merely writing as a human, and for another human to read this and not be moved would be truly disheartening.

    King’s use of Pathos is also extremely evident when he discusses his disappointment in the church as an establishment as well as the white moderate. This is not so much as a plea, but rather a shaming tactic for those King sees as doing too little. A cry out for action from those who say they support the civil rights cause, or claim to support the same ideals as the civil rights cause in the case of the church, yet do nothing to help. By appealing to the church as a fellow Christian and claiming that they are acting very un-Christian, King is basically asking them to prove him wrong in his disappointment. He has shown them his side; he has shown them what is the morally right path to take. Now all they have to do is act.

    King articulates the Logos of his letter over and over again throughout the letter. It is morally wrong to allow for segregation to continue. He touches on this numerous times, specifically when discussing his own breaking of the rules. He argues that we are morally obligated to break unjust rules and are morally obligated to follow just rules, for the good of all. Basically, he outlines a moral code that he sees as morally true, and that many others both black and white see as morally true, and he will follow this path until segregation fails.

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    The Racial Equality in Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr.. (2022, Dec 13). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/the-racial-equality-in-letter-from-birmingham-jail-by-martin-luther-king-jr/

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