'Letter from Birmingham Jail' Rhetorical Analysis.
In April of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., was jailed in Birmingham, Alabama for his efforts in the civil rights movement. One day after King's arrest, a full-page advertisement taken out by a group of local, white, moderate, clergymen appeared in The Birmingham News (Wexler 163). They attacked the demonstrations as "unwise and untimely" and concluded, "We do not believe that these days of new hope are days when extreme measures are justified in Birmingham (Wexler 163-4)." .
From his prison cell, King replied not only to the ministers' letter but also to an educated, white, middle-class audience, by writing his response in the margins of the newspaper and on toilet paper (Albert and Hoffman 141). "I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was well timed in the view of those who have not suffered from the disease of segregation," King, wrote in what was later published as the essay, Letter from Birmingham Jail (Wexler 164). The 6500 word letter went on to explain and make clear to the clergy and to the world why the struggle against racism must not be deferred (Wexler 164). King's main claim in this letter is that no matter what the circumstances are it is far beyond time for the black community to stand up and fight for what is rightfully theirs, the same rights and freedoms accorded to the white community. King effectively accomplishes this task through the structure of the essay and in his use of pathos, ethos, and logos to defend his arguments.
King's structure of the essay is purposeful in its attempt to sway the audience into his way of thinking. King begins the essay by clarifying why he is in Birmingham to begin with. Secondly, King describes his direct action campaign, for this is why he is being attacked, his "unruly" behavior. He then explains to the reader that this campaign may involve breaking laws, but they are laws that should not be in place to begin with.