Martin luther king letter in birmingham jail

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martin luther king letter in birmingham jail

Letter from the Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. rarely had time to answer his critics. But on April 16, 1963, he was confined to the Birmingham jail, serving a sentence for participating in civil rights demonstrations. Alone for days in the dull monotony of a narrow jail cell, King pondered a letter that fellow clergymen had published urging him to drop his campaign of nonviolent resistance and to leave the battle for racial equality to the courts. In response, King drafted his most extensive and forceful written statement against social injustice - a remarkable essay that focused the worlds attention on Birmingham and spurred the famous March on Washington. Bristling with the energy and resonance of his great speeches, Letter from the Birmingham Jail is both a compelling defense of nonviolent demonstration and a rallying cry for an end to social discrimination that is just as powerful today as it was more than twenty years ago.
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Letter from Birmingham Jail by Shmoop

"Letter from Birmingham Jail"

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If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms. I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary.

The letter defends the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism.
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King was jailed along with large numbers of his supporters, including hundreds of schoolchildren. His supporters did not, however, include all the black clergy of Birmingham, and he was strongly opposed by some of the white clergy who had issued a statement urging African Americans not to support the demonstrations. From the Birmingham jail, King wrote a letter of great eloquence in which he spelled out his philosophy of nonviolence:. Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. Near the end of the Birmingham campaign, in an effort to draw together the multiple forces for peaceful change and to dramatize to the country and to the world the importance of solving the U.


  1. Don N. says:

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  4. Pomeroy H. says:

    I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

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