Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Rhetorical Analysis Essay Prompts AP Language and Composition

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Rhetorical Analysis Essay Prompts AP Language and Composition.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

 Rhetorical Analysis Essay Prompts  AP Language and Composition


The student will be able to demonstrate effective written analysis of the rhetorical situation of the text.


Choose one of the writing prompts below. Now is the time to demonstrate everything you’ve learned about writing during your junior year!

  • Write the number of your prompt choice in parentheses after your title
  • Complete the rubric on the back of this sheet as self-assessment. Submit to tray after essay is complete.

Prompt Choices

  1. Figurative Language – Write an essay in which you trace one or more of the following patterns of figurative language throughout King’s letter: darkness and light, high and low, sickness and health. What effect does this pattern have on the overall text? What impact was King trying to achieve with this use of language? Paragraphs you should review include: 10, 14, 24, 26, 32, 43, 47, and 50.
  2. Allusions – Write an essay tracing and analyzing the way King uses allusions to balance the twin appeals to religion and patriotism throughout his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Why does King choose to use these two appeals? What impact might they have had on his intended audience(s)? Does he ultimately emphasize one over the other? If so, why do you think he made that choice?
  3. Tone/Tone Shifts – Some critics have argued that King takes a sarcastic tone in much of his letter. Write an essay evaluating King’s tone in the passage. Is there evidence of King’s sarcasm? Where do you see shifts in the tone? Analyze at least three different words you could use to describe the tone of the letter.
  4. Evaluating Rhetoric in the CounterArguments – In his letter, King begins by addressing the specific criticisms and accusations of the clergymen who wrote “A Call for Unity.” Analyze the methods King uses to refute the clergymen’s arguments and why he might have decided to start his letter with these refutations.
  5. Evaluating Rhetoric in the Arguments – After addressing the specific criticisms and accusations of the clergymen who wrote “A Call for Unity,” King goes on to detail his own arguments. Identify King’s main points and evaluate the effectiveness of King’s rhetorical strategies as he makes these arguments.
  6. Evaluating Rhetoric in the Conclusion – Write an essay in which you evaluate the effectiveness of King’s rhetorical strategies in the final three paragraphs, which serve as the conclusion to King’s letter. Specifically, describe what King does in the two sentences that make up his second-to-last paragraph. How do these two variations on an apology sum up his approach to argument in his essay?
  7. Logos/Ethos/Pathos – Write an essay evaluating King’s use of appeals to ethos, logos, and pathos in his letter. In what ways does he attempt to use each appeal to persuade his audience? Did he use a particular appeal more frequently than the others? Where was he most effective?

Name: ______________________________________                     Date: ____________________                       Hour: _______

  Outstanding 5 Exceeds Expectations 4 Meets Expectations 3 Approaching 2 Unacceptable 1
Introduction and Conclusion DOES YOUR HOOK FLOW WITH THE SENTENCE THAT FOLLOWS? -Introduction grabs attention and provides meaningful context -Conclusion effectively restates the argument, fresh language,meaningful insight achieves closure -Introduction sparks some interest and effectively introduces reasonable argument -Conclusion restates arguments, but uses new language and shows understanding of the big picture -Introduction provides context for the argument but is obvious or basic -Conclusion restates arguments, but recycles previous statements verbatim -Introduction or conclusion does not flow with the argument of the paper -Introduction or conclusion contains blanket or vague statements; needs development to be effective No introduction and/or conclusion
Thesis OPEN, CLOSED, COUNTER, MAKE IT CLEAR Argument is clearly articulated and persuasive, contains an original opinion Thesis presents a reasonable opinion, argument is clear and focused Thesis is a plausible argument; contains legitimate opinion, broad/basic Thesis demonstrates misunderstanding of the prompt or text Thesis not evident, is a fact, summary, not in correct position
Topic Sentences and Transitions MATCH THESIS, TOPIC, AND CLOSING SENTENCES Topic sentences contribute to the highly effective nature of argument; transitions are quite effective Topic sentences articulate precise argument; logically linked to thesis Transitions work very well Topic sentences are present, basic, connected to thesis; transitions are somewhat effective -Topic sentences are not linked to the thesis/show misunderstanding. Transitions not present or ineffective -Topic sentences not evident, may be fact or summary; Transitions nonexistent
Evidence AT LEAST TWO DIRECT QUOTES, PARAPHRASES, EXAMPLES, PER PARAGRAPH -The best evidence is used as support -Evidence is highly persuasive/effective in supporting argument Evidence is believable and convincing and supports the argument; two or more quotes per paragraph present Evidence is present, but superficial or apparent; at least two quotes per paragraph. -Evidence chosen does not support thesis and or topic sentences -Textual evidence is irrelevant Little or no evidence
Commentary ELABORATE: SO WHAT? WHY? WHO CARES? LIFE EXAMPLE SCENARIOS, ANECDOTES Creative, original ideas and insights; extensive commentary, refreshing; goes beyond obvious and basic commentary Analysis is believable and convincing; a few assertions may lack specific examples, but are still clearly connected to the argument Analysis supports your argument, but ideas are obvious and basic Ideas lack development; misunderstanding of prompt or text; illogical argument -Analysis not present, simply summary -Analysis does not address the prompt
Mechanics and Coherence READ ALOUD. LET A PARENT READ IT. WORKS CITED ONLY WHAT YOU USE Perfect! (1 or 2 minorerrors) Effective punctuation; close to perfect Minor problems with coherence, grammar, spelling, punctuation, but does not interfere w/understanding of paper Several distracting problems with spelling, grammar, punctuation, coherence; citations incorrect Major spelling, grammar, punctuation errors; interferes w/understanding; citations nonexistent
Voice and Style CLAIMS OF FACT, VALUE, AND POLICY. WORD CHOICE. QUOTE WEAVING. Sophisticated vocabulary; sentence variety; quotations are smoothly blended Effectively blends direct quotation with explanatory words and phrases to introduce quotation, facilitates narrative flow; still attempting advanced vocabulary Blend quoted material smoothly; but sentence structure lack variety- basic and obvious; attempts to incorporate more advanced vocabulary Quoted material overpowers commentary; lacks sophisticated and or correct use of advanced vocabulary; issues with flow of the text Lacks effort to demonstrate individual identity as a writer

Circle Total Score (pay attention to number possible in each category):

34=97 33=94 32=91 31=89 30=85 29=82 28=80 27=77 26=74 25=71 24=69 23=66 22=63 21=60 20=57

As my final major essay of the semester, I am most proud of:

As my final major essay of the semester, next year I want to work on:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Rhetorical Analysis Essay Prompts AP Language and Composition

Place this order or similar order and get an amazing discount.

Simple Steps to get your Paper Done
For Quality Papers