What was Dr. King's style as seen in these two works?Letter from Birmingham Jail and I Have A Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In both works, I think that Dr. King's style resides in both the rhetoric and content in suggesting that the struggle for Civil Rights is one for human rights.  In the stylistic pivot towards a more human nature of the political struggle, King shrewedly demonstrated his capacity for understanding that more people will follow the struggle if it moves away from race and towards a quest for human dignity.  Dr. King recognized that the notion of Civil Rights will only be advanced, especilly in its early stages, in mobilizing both people of color and White America in recognizing its obligation to members of the American society.  King's style, thus, is one that seeks to bring out the idea of social justice and human equality in both works.  In Letter from Birmingham Jail, one sees this in the subtitle of the work, "The Negro is Your Brother.  This idea is one that hopes to make a political struggle one that can be understood by all people.  The idea of "moral" justification to defy "unjust laws" was something that could be appreciated by all people, for it was the very essence underscoring the founding of the nation.  At the same time, King was wise enough to focus on the substantive due process violations that made opposition a moral and human necessity.  This is part of his persuasive style in the letter thatmarks the starting point in which people began to universalize King and the movement that he began to represent.   This process is expanded in the "I Have a Dream" speech.  In choosing the metaphor of "the dream," Dr. King makes the argument that the people of color that wish for Civil Rights are no different than any other parent who seek the best for their child.  This is a brilliant move from a stylistic point of view because King makes the personal aspect of the Civil Rights Movement so powerful in suggesting that the desire to "Dream" is what motivates the movement.  Consider the ending of the speech when King makes a plea as a father, speaking of the day when his children will sit down with White children "at the table of brotherhood."  It is this very idea that strikes that the stylistic brilliance of the speech both as a political document and as a work of art where the artist seeks to make a personal struggle a universal one.

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