On April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a letter from jail. The world knows this letter as the Letter from Birmingham, or The Negro is Your Brother. Martin Luther King dedicated all his life to fighting injustices in the community.
After his trial, eight clergymen released a statement condemning the actions of Martin, especially his participation in the protest. Martin’s reply hit three birds at the same time. This was a way of defending himself from the accusations and showed the need for the demonstration. The other aim was to attack the clergymen and the white on their opinions against the black community.
In the first line, Martin says the critics that he is not an outsider in Birmingham and that he has every rights to enjoin the people of Alabama in their quest. According to him, he had organizational ties with Christian Fellowship in Birmingham. Moreover, Americans had the right to air their views anywhere within the bounds. The fact that Martin was an American was a sufficient justification to participate in the quest. This was in line with the provisions of the American constitution binding all Americans together.
Martin had a true conviction that this was the best time for the black community to air its grievances. Firstly, the blacks had engaged the retailers in direct dialogue that bore no fruit .They wanted the economic community and other merchants’ community to remove racial signs from their businesses, something they did not do. The clergymen claimed that this was Easter time, a period when the masses are celebrating the death and rise of Jesus. It was not right to draw the masses from prayer to violence. Easter is one of the periods when Americans shop most. Logically, the best time to plie pressure on businessmen and force them to alter their behavior is when their market is high. Martin recognized this fact and used this time for the demonstrations .
Martin also affirms that there was constant postponement of the riots for a very long period, and the blacks had had enough. The community had also waited for more than three hundred years to achieve this dream. Enough was enough. The clergy also alleged that the timing did not give the new mayor time to respond to their issues. According to Luther, the new mayor was also a racist and, if given time, could not have changed anything.
According to Martin Luther King, each American is a rational Human being capable of deciding what is right and what is wrong. Therefore, they have an obligation to obey just laws and disobey the oppressing or unjust laws. Martin says that just laws come from God while the unjust laws are made by humans. Unjust law is not in synchrony with natural law, and hence, Americans have the obligation to disobey such laws.
Martin uses repetition, logos, pathos, and ethos as rhetorical strategies in his argument against the clergymen allegations. The use of rhetorical strategies brings out emphasis, logic, and understanding to the audience. He primarily recognizes the claim of clergymen, “You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws”(Snow, 330). This leads to a debate about morality and the kinds of laws, namely “just and unjust.” By rationally going beyond the types of laws and applying reason to reveal occasions when laws can and ought to be broken, he is basically leading the people through his own rationalization. Martin’s strict moral devotion persuades people that he is dependable and sincere. His morality aids in establishings ethos as it makes him a reliable leader with integrity.