3. 05 Purposeful Structure in King’s Letter



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3.05 Purposeful Structure in King’s Letter


Recall the writing prompt for this unit:

What makes King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" powerful and effective? After reading King's letter, answer the question by analyzing how he uses structure and language purposefully in his text. Provide specific examples from the text to support your analysis.

Your study of structure in this assignment will begin to help you answer this question and respond to the prompt later in the unit.



Using what you learned in the lesson, complete the following chart and respond to the analysis questions in complete sentences. Some parts of the chart are already completed for you. Use the activities from the lesson to help you complete the rest of the chart.



*View the text of “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in lesson 3.05 on page 3

Part from “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

What is the main idea of this part?

What is the tone of this paragraph?

What is the purpose of this paragraph? (What does King hope to accomplish?)

How is it connected to the ideas before or after it?

Heading

The heading shows that King is in jail.

Not applicable

He hopes to show the injustice of the situation.

Not applicable

Greeting

King addresses “fellow clergymen.”

Kind

He shows that he is also a clergyman and that he considers himself a part of the group he is addressing.

The whole letter is written to these clergymen who criticized King for taking action.

Paragraph 1

   

Patient

 


 

Paragraph 2

The steps that King and others have taken to try to end discrimination and the reason for choosing Birmingham as the site for their protest

Factual

 

 

Paragraph 3

   

Passionate

He shows how foolish it is for the clergymen to say “wait” for change. He shows that change must happen soon.

 

Paragraph 4

   



 Matter-of-fact

 

 

Paragraph 5

   


 Matter-of-fact

 

 

Paragraph 6

   


 Matter-of-fact

 

 

Paragraph 7

By fighting racial injustice, we are not causing problems, rather we are revealing the problem.

 Passionate

He wants to remind the pastors that he and other activists are not causing problems by protesting; instead, they are revealing the problems in society.

 

Analysis Questions

  1. Complete the following sentence.

The purpose of King’s letter is to cause __________________ to fight ________________________.

  1. What is the relationship between the underlined sentence and the bolded sentences?

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: (1) Collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive; (2) Negotiation; (3) Self-purification; and (4) Direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying of the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of police brutality is known in every section of this country. Its unjust treatment of Negroes in the courts is a notorious reality. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than any city in this nation. These are the hard, brutal, and unbelievable facts. On the basis of these conditions Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the political leaders consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Response:

  1. What is the purpose of the sentence "These are the hard, brutal, and unbelievable facts" in the following paragraph?

    In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: (1) Collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive; (2) Negotiation; (3) Self-purification; and (4) Direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying of the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of police brutality is known in every section of this country. Its unjust treatment of Negroes in the courts is a notorious reality. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than any city in this nation. These are the hard, brutal, and unbelievable facts. On the basis of these conditions Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the political leaders consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

Response:

For questions 4-6, reread the following paragraphs from King's letter, paying attention to the way that he structures his ideas.

Paragraph 9 of 12


I have travelled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at her beautiful churches with their spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlay of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over again I have found myself asking: "Who worships here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were their voices of support when tired, bruised, and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?" 

Paragraph 10 of 12


There was a time when the Church was very powerful ... In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators." Things are different now. The contemporary Church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the Church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the Church's silent and often vocal sanction (approved action) of things as they are. 


  1. In a complete sentence, state the main idea of each paragraph (paragraphs 9 and 10).



  1. In a complete sentence, state the purpose of each paragraph (paragraphs 9 and 10).



  1. What is the effect of making these points in the order King has chosen? Respond in two to four sentences.


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