Since ancient times, promoters of justice have brought into play rhetorical strategies to persuade their opponents. On April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a letter regarding the criticism several clergymen made, stating that the movements of nonviolent resistance to racism from Dr. King were “unwise and untimely”. In this letter King uses several rhetorical strategies but mainly he makes use of 3. In the first one, King uses an outside authority (Religion), given the fact that he is trying to persuade Christians.
Second, Dr. King appeals to emotion (Ethos), he tries to appeal to their human and goodness side. Third, King employs analogies to emphasize his argument against racism. With these three rhetorical strategies he tries to persuade the clergymen to take action on the injustice that is upon Birmingham against the Negroes. As stated previously, outside authority was used by Dr. King to appeal the clergymen of the racism taking action. Religion has the power to move such an enormous amount of people and this has been proven since the dawn of time.
He know that this man obey the laws of God, knowing this he mentions he came to Birmingham for a good reason by saying Just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. (King, 819) With this quote he is making a religious analogy to make the clergymen understand that he is there for a good cause, a cause that is as good as Apostle Paul’s.
Later on the letter, King compared his actions with Jesus Christ’s when he was called an extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love? (826) This is also a religious analogy, and here he wants to deliver the message of peace by comparing his actions with the ones Jesus did. He wants to make the clergymen understand that the one they follow would have done the same.
Subsequently, Dr. King employs the rhetorical strategy called Ethos, which means emotion. He uses this tactics to make the clergymen see that the ones they’re segregating are not less than any other human being; he tries to appeal to their good side. King says “Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation say wait“(821) And he then proceeds to quote his son who says “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?
To make a point; make him see what an innocent mind thinks and how it affects him. He then proceeds to say When you take a cross country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger” and your middle name becomes “boy” and your last name becomes “John”, and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.
Then you’ll understand why we find difficult to longer willing to wait. (King, 821-822) These are one of the most powerful words this letter has to offer, he emphasizes what a negroe has to suffer day by day. King mentions this to make the clergymen see what it feels like to be segregated, to make them see how unjust it is. Throughout the entire essay Dr. King uses analogies to make his argument sound stronger and emphasize it. Not only does he uses religious analogies he uses historical analogies and geographical.
He compares the USA with Africa and Asia “The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining … independence, but we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. ” (King, 821) he makes this analogy so they understand that other continents are already far beyond them, that this should have been dealt long ago. Later on he defends himself of the accusations of breaking the law for a good cause. He says “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was legal and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was illegal.
With this analogy he tries to let them know laws are not always correct and thus they have to be changes, and therefore the prohibition of segregation. In conclusion, King uses several rhetorical strategies to convince the clergymen that his actions are not “unwise and untimely” but the opposite. He gives them reasons to listen to him and convince them. The most important rhetorical strategies where religious appeal, emotion appeal and analogies. With this mix of rhetorical strategies he makes this letter one of the most important piece for the civil right movement.