Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most influential activists, that had a massive impact on the Civil Rights Movement. By using the strategy of nonviolence to fight racism he helped segregation disintegrate. His ideas and tactics were still used after his assassination in 1968. MLK was never afraid to fight for what was right, he even went to jail for it in 1963. That’s when he wrote a response to the Alabama clergymen who criticized King harshly. Throughout the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by MLK, he uses pathos to make the pastors relate to the unjust laws, and he uses an understatement and allusion to convince people to see the horrid truth behind segregation.
MLK uses pathos throughout his speech to make the pastors relate to the cruel unjust laws. In his speech, MLK states, “It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire” (King 5). This quote will make the pastors feel a hurricane of proud and painful emotion, of what the Christians went through. They will think about what Christians were forced to endure in order to practice in what they believe in. MLK is comparing the Christians pain to what the African American community was currently facing. By saying this, the pastors will begin to feel sorry for the way they have been treating them and start to relieve some of their hate for them.
MLK’s use of an understatement helped many recognize the grim truth behind segregation. In the letter, it says, “Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self-purification” (King 2). This quote does not even begin to capture what the African Americans had to face. For decades, they were murdered in cold blood, beaten to bloody and raped. When he says difficulties he is talking about going to jail, facing police brutality, and being murdered. That shouldn’t be a daily difficulty people have to overcome. What they went through was catastrophic and King was treating it as if it was a minor inconvenience. A person should never be treated like a disease or undeserving of rights. They have been waiting way too long for equal rights and a stand needed to be taken. A stand, that would overcome massive difficulties and set the path of equality.
When MLK uses an allusion he further persuades the clergymen and the people to grasp the irrational ideas that comes from segregation. In his speech, King says, “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “Legal” (King 6). This brief reference takes us back to a time when the Jewish community was suffering from Hitler’s rule. He threw thousands of Jews in the camps and burned them alive. Hitler thought those actions were justifiable, even though they were illegal and inhumane. King is trying to show how Hitler’s actions are much like the actions of many white people. Just like Hitler the laws of segregation were killing and separating people.
MLK did a phenomenal job in showing his disapproval for segregation and uncivilized actions, in a nonviolent manner. He was a true leader that never can be forgotten. His passion and bravery lit a spark in everyone that soon became a wild fire. He pushed past any criticism and faced many threats. Even, with so many difficulties he was able to leave one of the biggest impacts our history books have ever seen. His use of Rhetorical devises and appeals finally, got people to understand the need for the Civil Rights Movement.
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