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Martin Luther King Essay

Martin Luther King sample essay:
The civil rights of African-American’s in the 1950’s and 1960’s were in the process of being changed forever. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was at the head of the march for African-American civil rights. One such example, Dr. King writes a letter while in jail explaining the actions taken in Birmingham, Alabama in early April of 1963. This letter has been published in the book “The Presence of Others: Voices and Images That Call for Response.” In the letter, Dr. King uses three appeals (ethos, pathos, and logos) effectively to illustrate the actions taken leading up to his arrest in Birmingham. This letter discusses Dr. King’s views on what was happening in the Civil Rights Movement and why it happened.

Dr. King begins his letter in an interesting way, by stating that he normally does not write about criticisms of his work and ideas, but that he feels the men that made the statements are good willed people, he will try and answer their statements. (Page 142). He probably started off this way because he was trying to capture the intended audience’s attention to let them know that he was in fact going to explain his ideas and actions. King also lets the audience know that he is still in jail, and that he just happened to come across the statements. After the first paragraph, he immediately begins to explain his purpose and reasoning for the actions using very effective ethos and logos.

The purpose of this letter is very clear and easily understood to readers because of the good use of ethos, pathos, and logos. He address’ the letter towards the eight fellow clergymen that had recently made statements that his present activities were “unwise and untimely.” (Page 142). King’s purpose in writing this letter is to respond to the statements made about him and his followers and explain what happened in Birmingham and what is happening in the civil rights movement.

Dr. King adds more strength to his letter by being very appealing to authority, using ethos to establish the credibility, character, and confidence. He gains this credibility, character, and confidence by discussing his position in the Civil Rights Movement and people that also agree with his philosophy. For example, he talks about how everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was legal and that everything that the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was illegal. (Page 148). What he is doing here is building confidence in his ideas because although these were terrible things, he is technically right about them, and they relate to his situation. Since Martin Luther King Jr. was very knowledgeable about the Civil Rights Movement, he is able to show familiarity. These factors allow him to gain trust and credibility from the audience as he discusses the different aspects of his actions and ideas.

Martin Luther King Junior’s effective ethos also comes from his showing of confidence. His confidence is very obvious throughout this letter. He shows self-understanding which assures the audience that he knows what he is talking about. Also, because he is very comfortable sharing his thoughts and ideas, the audience could, in return, understand the context of the letter and see his main points. This is very important because Dr. King is gaining reliance and trust from the audience by making them understand his thoughts and ideas.

Pathos is a huge factor that plays a very important role in Dr. King’s strategy. He creates a sense of confidence in the audience due to triggering certain emotions which make the audience able to relate to and view his ideas in a much more open manner. Because the letter is discussing the reasoning behind his actions and ideas on mainly African-American civil rights to his white Caucasian colleagues, Dr. King makes relationships to better get his point across. For example, he presents a relationship about understanding. “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” (Page 148). What he is saying here is that it is far better for one to try and accept people of good will rather than totally reject them. Also, it is much more frustrating when you are of good will and you get completely rejected compared to getting completely rejected when you are of bad will. This is so because when you are of bad will, you have a certain expectancy to be rejected. Dr. King is trying to get his fellow clergymen to open up and try and really understand where he is coming from.

Audience other than people involved in the civil rights movement such as the initial audience of this letter may be offended by this letter. This is because the society in the 1950’s and 60’s was very different from today’s, in that some people took so much pride in the fact that it was an all white system, that African-Americans weren’t allowed to be part of it. Also, they may have been raised that way, so that was how they felt when they grew up. However, this letter was written during the civil rights movement, so Dr. King presented a different outlook on things. He knew a large group of people would not agree with him, but by presenting his ideas and getting people to open up to viewing them, he could possibly further open them up and eventually they may accept and believe them.

Logos is the third effective appeal that is used in this letter by Dr. King. Being very logical and reasonable helped him appeal to the logic of the audience in a very effective way. He talks in detail about what some of his reasoning is behind some of the actions he takes. For example, he says “It was ‘Illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.” (Page 148). What he was saying there was applying to logic. Any open person would look at that and see that it is a very logical and reasonable thing to do even though it is “illegal.” By setting this up, he is implying that although his actions may be illegal, but if you look at it from his perspective, it is actually a very logical and reasonable thing to do.

As discussed here, Martin Luther King Jr. was very successful in using three appeals. The logos were effective because for the most part he was logical and reasonable in his writing. He presented several examples in his letter as to the way he viewed was logical because of the example. It also helped to clarify his purpose to the audience. Pathos was also effective because he gave the target audience more confidence by appealing to their emotions and bringing out thoughts that they understood and accepted. Ethos were very effective because by being confident, he was able to deliver his message clearly and precisely. This letter discusses what was happening in the Civil Rights Movement and why some of the things happened the way they did.

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Martin Luther King Essay
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Oct 9, 2009

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