Acceptable forms of oppression were separated into four categories: racial segregation; voter suppression, in southern states; denial of economic opportunity; private acts of violence aimed at African Americans. At this time, many civil rights laws were advocated and many African Americans adopted a combined strategy of direct action with nonviolent resistance, known as civil disobedience. There were some positive actions throughout this time. In the early 196(Yes, Brown vs…
Board of Education made segregation legally impermissible; Rosa parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott the local ordinance segregating African-Americans and whites on public buses was lifted; Desegregation Little Rock; and The Civil Rights Act of 1957. However, any cities were still very segregated; Birmingham, Alabama was one of the most segregated cities in the United States. In the case of a calm and collected approach to fighting injustice, few have a vision such as Rev. DRP. Utter King Jar.
King’s letter from Birmingham reflects his opinion that peace and non-violence were vital in achieving desegregation and important human rights for African Americans throughout the nation during the sass’s. The “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was an appeal to the general African American population to lay down their weapons and rest their spite filled minds. He sees pleas to emotions, logic and to history in order to portray his vision. King famously preached to a tone of non-violence which fell upon deaf ears to those who were tired of patiently waiting for change.
The very first line of King’s letter takes advantage of this strategy of using emotional appeal to get the attention of the audiences. King writes, “While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, came… ” (King 1) He draws the attention of the church leaders to the dungeons of the jail. One is forced to imagine the filthy crowded rooms with little ventilation. This is a symbolic representation of the fife of the negro people of that period. The blacks were living a life which was no better than the life in the filthy rooms in the jail. One feels sorry for King from the very beginning of the letter.
King shows a generous attitude towards the white clergymen whom he calls “men of genuine goodwill” (King 1). This helped him gather the support of those people who otherwise would not have supported King. He used diplomatic criticisms to avoid harsh words against the whites. This soft tone seems to have appealed to many white audiences. The argument of the Clergymen challenging DRP. King reads, “We rather strongly urge our own Negro community to withdraw support from these demonstrations, and to unite locally in working peacefully for a better Birmingham.
When rights are consistently denied, a cause should be pressed in the courts and in negotiations among local leaders, and not in the streets. We appeal to both our white and Negro citizenry to observe the principles of law and order and common et al). Utilizing a pathos approach in many segments of his letter, King writes, “For years now have heard the word “Wait! ” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never. ” We must come to see, with one of our didst anguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied”(King 2).
Waiting after years of oppression and harassment is easy to preach from the outside looking in, but King logically states that African Americans ” have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights”(Kings). The Clergy, who he is responding to, pleads with DRP. King to continue “waiting” but 340 years is ample time to wait. King continues to say that some of the preachers of God have understood he need for justice, but some have suppressed the blacks themselves. He believes that the preachers have to break the traditional, unjustified rules of the society to allow for the freedom of the children of God.
The true meaning of the Bible lies in justice and co-existence. He wants moral justice to overcome the traditional norms which were unjust in nature. He conveys this message well in his letter. He further writes: “One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the cost sacred values in our Judged-Christian heritage” (King 6). King also uses quotes from the Bible to further involve the emotional attachment of the people with the Bible.
He compares himself with Apostle Paul when he says that he is going to carry the gospel of freedom to the places beyond his native town. This served two purposes. On one hand, he could reach out to the illiterate people who knew of Paul through churches, and on the other hand, he made it clear that he was undertaking a big mission. So, the whites were expected to come to support him in the name of god. Besides using the name of god to appeal to the people, King presents the real scenario of the life of the African American people to arouse sympathy towards the blacks.
His writing is sensational. He forces the people to think Of the hopeless life the blacks were living during that period when he writes, “but when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million negro brothers mothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society’ (King 2). Throughout the essay King repeats many basic arguments to arouse the emotions.
His argument was that racial injustice was not tolerable. However, he seems to have failed to address this argument in the best effective way through his writing. As Wesley T. Moot notes in the paper, “The Rhetoric of Martin Luther King, Jar. : Letter from Birmingham Jail,” that King is not effective when he uses trite sentences like: “dark clouds of racial prejudice/radiant stars of love. ” Wesley believes that “these sentences could be effective on erect speeches, but when it comes to writing, they become click” (Moot).
However, King was effective during that period as people were moved by the events happening at that time. They had seen the injustice. So, even a trite remark on the prevailing scene was sufficient to arouse interest among those people who had a sympathetic heart. “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or. Unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the united States negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let IM go on freedom rides-and try to understand why he must do so.