Reverend Martin Luther King Jr

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most persuasive speakers in American history. King is able to remain level headed and calm in the extremely turbulent time of the Civil Rights Movement. Rev. King uses various argumentative techniques throughout his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” King does not distance himself from the opposing viewpoints; instead, he attempts to draw his readers in. King pulls in other viewpoints by appealing to the ethical and moral character of his audience. Reverend King uses his Christian morals and faith to help pull his readers in. King, even, opens up his family to the scrutiny of his readers. Reverend King does this in order to help his readers understand where he is coming from. Using ethical and moral appeals, he is able to help his reader understand his beliefs and the Civil Rights Movement. These appeals are some of the strongest persuasive techniques he uses.

Reverend Martin Luther King, while writing “A Letter from Birmingham Jail,” knew who his audiences were. In knowing who his audience was he was able to reach them on an equal level, without prejudice coming into play. Rev. King reaches his audience by appealing to their ethical and moral character. Reverend King was aware of his reader’s various backgrounds and beliefs. He appealed to the clergymen through arguments of Christian morality. In “A Letter form Eight White Clergymen,” the clergymen write, “Hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions”(57). King calmly responds, “I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause, and with deep moral concern, serve as the channel through which our just grievances would get to the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand”(King, 84). Revered King is disappointed in church leadership and handling of the Movement. Revered King appeals to the Christian morality of the clergymen by pointing out that he had hoped men of “God” would have helped in aiding African Americans to gain equal rights. He had hoped that religious ties would have broken social boundaries. Reverend King uses Christianity to help justify his views and involvement in the cause to the clergymen.

Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their ‘thus saith the lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Graeco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular home town.(King, 77)

King relates his preaching of freedom to that of the preaching of the Christian faith. Reverend King, also, uses Christianity to help his audiences understand “the cause” the blacks are working for. “It was practice by superbly by the early Christians who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks, before submitting to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire”(King, 81). Reverend King tries to explain to his audiences what the blacks are trying to accomplish. He uses their Christian beliefs to try to persuade them of his argument.

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. uses empathy in “A Letter from Birmingham Jail” to help relate himself and his situations to his audiences. Reverend King uses empathy, in order to help his white conservative audience understand where his beliefs are coming from.

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 her eyes when she is told that FunTown is closed to colored people, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to for in her little mental sky and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people.(King, 79)

Reverend King uses examples from his family; in order, to help whites understand the discrimination blacks face everyday. “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”(King, 80). King’s examples from his personal life give a direct example of where the black community is coming from. King uses empathy to help convey the meaning of the Civil Rights Movement to the conservative white community. Reverend King used these personal examples to help the white community truly understand the discrimination the black community is forced to deal with on a daily basis.

Reverend King, also, appealed his argument in “A Letter from Birmingham Jail” to the Black community. Reverend King tries to make blacks realize that non-violent campaigns are not just a sudden decision. “In any non-violent campaign there are for basic steps : 1) Collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive. 2)Negotiations. 3)Self-purification and 4) Direct action”( King, 78). He, also, wanted to reassure black people that change can occur. “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue”(King, 79). Reverend King explains to the black community how non-violent campaigns help create a situation that does not allow the problems of the blacks to be ignored anymore.

Even though Reverend King used strong argumentative techniques, it is still hard to convince others of a cause that they do not have direct ties to. King is trying to get a community, the moderate whites, to understand the hardships of discrimination. It was a hard task for him to undertake because the white community could not completely understand discrimination because they, themselves, did not face it. People who are in a position of power are afraid of loosing that power. Some whites feared losing the power they had over the black community. They feared the change of the status quo of society. Most of all, however, whites feared that violence and hatred would be in sighted.

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