Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter


.. unjust treatment of Negroes in the courts... unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches... These are the hard, brutal, an unbelievable facts."

In defending his position against the brutality of injustice in Birmingham, King assumes the role of both a moral and political authority in the defense of black American freedom and abolishment of black American slavery and injustice. His persona is divided in the letter: the gentler, more emotional King is used to appeal to his fellow black Americans, while the rational, political and religious activist King is used to defend and argue his position to the white American political and religious community. King's use of emotions to his fellow black American countrymen is used to effectively address the problem of injustice and inequality committed to them: "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." This statement resounds of emotion and empathy to the black American society; King uses the element of ethos and pathos to effectively extend his message to his fellowmen. On the other hand, a harsher, more rational tone is used to condemn the injustices the political and religious community of the white American society had done to black Americans: "... I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate... who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice..." And "I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership... The contemporary church is so weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound... The arch supporter of the status quo." The preceding statements from King's letter is argued through the use allusions to history, mentioning important events that happened in the world to emphasize his point about freedom, justice, and equality. These allusions to history and references to famous philosophers and well-known individuals in the world give a strong argument to his positions in the letter.

In conclusion, it is apparent that the elements of pathos and ethos were used in King's letter to argue and defend his position about the black American segregation in America. At the initial part of his letter, King uses ethos, or appeals based on King's character and validity as a defender of the black American cause. This is evident in his use of his position and the name is organization and his use of his position as a political and religious activist to effectively argue and make his point to his three main audience: the white American political and religious community, and the black American society. Pathos, or appeals based on emotions, are used to his argument addressed to his fellow black Americans, and also accompanies his logical arguments (logos) about the black American individual rights, freedom, and the equality of every man/individual. Through these three important elements of rhetoric, King was able to make a passionate, and very argumentative position and refutation against the criticisms thrown at him and his organization regarding their demonstrations admonishing the practice of racial prejudice, segregation, and slavery. Thus, the primary purpose of King's letter, which is to advocate for the abolishment of racial segregation and pushing for the freedom of black Americans in his white American- dominated society, is achieved through his broad knowledge and authority over issues of racial segregation, through his effective emotional appeals to the people regarding inequality and injustices to the black American society, and the presentation of "hard, brutal, unbelievable facts" to support his statements regarding the serious and dangerous effects of racial prejudice in the American society. In effect, King's position/stance against racial segregation is a strong one, because of the balanced and effective use of these primary rhetoric elements, which is dominantly present in his rhetorical letter from theā€¦