Analysis

This analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.'s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is based on the rhetorical pentagram model.

In the next pages, we will outline the topics of the speech – nonviolent resistance, racial segregation, religion, and justice – using examples from the text.

We will present the writer of the text – Martin Luther King Jr. – considering his background as a minister and civil rights activist as well as the information King provides about himself in the letter.

We will look at the intended readers of the text – members of the clergy, moderates, white citizens and authorities, and African Americans – focusing on how the writer targets and engages them.

We will examine the language used by the writer, including aspects related to choice of words, tone, rhetorical devices, and modes of persuasion, and looking at how language helps King deliver his arguments and message.

We will highlight the circumstances in which the letter was written, looking at the Birmingham protests from 1963 but also at the wider context of the civil rights movement in the US.

We will explore the intention behind Martin Luther King’s speech: responding to criticism and defending non-violent activism, while also trying to gain support for the movement and to criticize its opponents.

Read our full analysis of the text in the next pages!