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Letter from a Birmingham Jail - Literary Elements
Updated: 12/5/2018
Letter from a Birmingham Jail - Literary Elements
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Letter from Birmingham Jail <i>by Martin Luther King Jr</i>

Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr

Lesson Plans by Kristy Littlehale

"Letter from a Birmingham Jail" challenged the complacent attitudes of the local clergymen during the Civil Right’s movement, as Martin Luther King, Jr. sat in a jail cell for his peaceful protests against injustice. This letter connects with the important concepts of Transcendentalism as laid out by Henry David Thoreau in his jail-time piece, Resistance to Civil Government, including nonconformity, intuition, and self-reliance.




Letter from Birmingham Jail

Storyboard Description

Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr. | Transcendentalism

Storyboard Text

  • Daily Special Meatloaf $3.99
  • ALLITERATION
  • Counter for Whites Only
  • METAPHOR
  • Welcome and support your Negro bretheren, as God made us all equal.
  • This is a social issue, not a religious one!
  • ALLUSION
  • In the name of the King!
  • "...and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter."
  • "But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom."
  • “As T.S. Eliot has said: ‘The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.’” (Implicitly referencing the play Murder in the Cathedral, about Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket who was murdered, and later declared a martyr, for his refusal agree to the crowning of King Henry II.)
  • IMAGERY
  • Get off our streets! We don't want your kind here!
  • RUN!!!
  • DOWN WITH JIM CROW
  • LITERARY ELEMENTS
  • PARALLELISM
  • Why do we have to sleep in the car, Daddy?
  • PERSONIFICATION
  • Are we?
  • Welcome!
  • "But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity..."
  • "...when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading 'white' and 'colored'..."
  • "Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible 'devil.'"
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