Letter From Birmingham Jail Summary
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The intended audience for this piece of writing is a number of religious clergymen who were at one of Dr. King’s protests in Birmingham and later, harshly criticized him for it. He also had written this letter to all of the Americans, to proclaim to them that injustice is everywhere in the country, not just in Birmingham. In his letter Dr. King writes “I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christiana and Jewish brothers” (King 3) and “injustice anywhere is the threat to injustice everywhere” (King 1). Dr. King’s purpose for this letter was to address the criticism from the public and from the white religious leaders. He says “It was his response to a public statement of concern and caution issued by eight white religious leaders of the south” (King 1).
There is evidence that Dr. King is not only writing a letter, answers the questions of the public. He says “You may well ask, ‘why direct action?’” (King 3). Throughout his letter, Dr. King uses powerful words and strong language to deliver his impactful message. For example, “the sting darts of segregation” (King 2). He uses this phrase when he is trying to explain what segregation feels like to the audience members who have never experienced it. On page two, he also uses the words “hate-filled” (King 2) to describe policemen’s attitudes towards people of color. This paints the audience a picture of how cruel law enforcement was at that time. The tone of Dr. King’s letter is an aid in persuading the audience that he is reliable and trustworthy. King uses a gentle tone when he states “I must confess that over that last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate” (King 3).
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He doesn’t use words like “angry” or “enraged”. This helps the audience to understand that he is a peaceful protester and can be trusted. King also states that his campaign is intended to be nonviolent. He then lists the steps on how he plans to keep it that way. This shows the audience that he is a smart man with a plan versus some outraged lunatic just angry with the world. Dr. King was giving the people evidence. Dr. King appeals to the audience’s emotions extremely well. His goal is to communicate to the audience and to the clergymen the pain that comes with a colored man. He emphasizes segregation and feeling inferior to another human because of the color of his skin. Dr. King says “It is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation” (King 2). King also tries to connect with the audience’s emotion when he talks about his daughter. “When you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that just has been advertised on television” (King 3).