King’s letter from birmingham jail | English | Dallas County Community College District

1.  How does King establish his ethos (i.e., his credibility, authority, or trustworthiness) in this essay? Offer at least twospecific examples from the essay for support.

2.  According to King, why is action now necessary, in terms of both place and time? In other words, why in Birmingham and why at this particular moment in American history?

3.  Reread the paragraph that begins “We have waited for more than 340 years …” and note King’s use of repetition of the phrase “when you …” throughout. Do you find this to be an effective rhetorical strategy for achieving the letter’s purpose? Why or why not? Explain.

4.  King describes two types of law: just and unjust. How does he define each of these? And do you agree with his definitions? Why or why not? Explain. Note: In responding to this question, look very carefully at the logical progression of ideas in this section, and think carefully about how King considers the broader audience of this letter (the American public). 

5.  According to King, what two opposing forces exist in the Negro community? How has King tried to stand between them? And why do you think he mentions this here? Explain.

6.  In what ways has King been disappointed by white moderates? By the white church? Why do you think he details all of this in his letter? Explain.

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