Letter from a Birmingham Jail King Jr The Africa Center

'Letter from Birmingham Jail' is, in fact, a letter written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from a solitary confinement cell in Birmingham, Alabama. Some portions of the letter were written and gradually smuggled out by King's lawyer on scraps of paper including, by some reports, rough jailhouse toilet paper. Violent racist terror against African Americans was so bad in Birmingham in the summer of 6968 that the city was being referred to by some locals as Bombingham. Segregation laws and policies were part of the Jim Crow system of separate schools, restaurants, bathrooms, etc. For blacks and whites that existed far beyond the era of slavery, especially in the American South. Several local religious figures Dr. King had counted on for support simultaneously published a letter entitled A Call for Unity, which was critical of King and his supporters. King responds to each of these nine charges to create the structure of his 'Letter from Birmingham Jail.

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Letter From a Birmingham Jail The Martin Luther King Jr

'Criticism #6: It is not King's place as an 'outsider' to interfere with the City of Birmingham. King gives three reasons why it is appropriate for him to be active in working for civil rights in Birmingham even though he doesn't claim permanent residence there. Dr. King tells that he was upset about their criticisms, and that he wishes to address their concerns. He defends his right to be there in a straightforward, unemotional tone, explaining that the SCLC is based in Atlanta but operates throughout the South. One of its affiliates had invited the organization to Birmingham, which is why they came. However, he then provides a moral reason for his presence, saying that he came to Birmingham to battle “injustice. ” Because he believes that “all communities and states” are interrelated, he feels compelled to work for justice anywhere that injustice is being practiced. He then explains in detail his process of organizing nonviolent action. First, the SCLC confirmed that Birmingham had been practicing institutionalized racism, and then attempted to negotiate with white business leaders there. When those negotiations broke down because of promises the white men broke, the SCLC planned to protest through “direct action. ” Before beginning protests, however, they underwent a period of “self-purification, ” to determine whether they were ready to work nonviolently, and suffer indignity and arrest. However, the SCLC chose to hold out because Birmingham had impending mayoral elections. Though the notorious racist was defeated in the election, his successor,, was also a pronounced segregationist. Therefore, the protests began. Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King wrote this landmark missive. It was republished several months later in The Atlantic. Martin Luther King Jr. 's famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, published in The Atlantic as The Negro Is Your Brother and excerpted below, was written in response to a public statement of concern and caution issued by eight white religious leaders of the South. It stands as one of the classic documents of the civil-rights movement. While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities unwise and untimely. Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all of the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else 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 your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms. I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of outsiders coming in I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. .

I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial outside agitator idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider. In this letter he outlines twelve of his most important concepts, and he summarizes each of them in a few well-chosen words. There is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open where it can be seen and dealt with. The purpose of the direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.

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The document available for viewing above is from an early draft of the Letter, while the audio is from King’s reading of the Letter later. Dr. King s famous Letter from Birmingham Jail is a response to a statement written by several Alabama Clergymen. In that statement, the Clergymen assert that Dr. King s methods are both unwise and untimely. They brand him an outside agitator who should not be advocating the breaking of the law. Dr. King responds with this Letter and politely references Biblical, Classical and early American figures to counter the arguments of the Clergymen. Enjoying the Digital Archives? Help us maintain and expand the collection. Donate to The King Center Dr. King’s tone as he begins his letter is remarkably restrained. Considering the context – he was in solitary confinement when he learned that Birmingham clergymen had together issued a statement criticizing him and praising the city’s bigoted police force – he had every reason to make his letter a rant. And yet this address announces his purpose loud and clear: he aims not to attack but to explain. Rather than indicate what separates him from the other clergy, he calls them “fellow clergymen, ” underlining one of the letter’s main themes: brotherhood. Of course, there is no shortage of passive aggressive attacks and criticism throughout the letter, but the tone remains polite, deferential, at times almost apologetic, creating a friendly and ironic tone. This marvelous collection of attributes is present from these very first words. This phrase, one of the letter’s most famous, serves several purposes. In its immediate context, it justifies why Dr. King and the SCLC have come to Birmingham because they feel connected to and responsible for everyone, they had to come to a place that was exhibiting “injustice. Throughout the work, he justifies breaking laws if they are unjust, embracing extremism, and forgoing negotiations if they are not made in good faith. Because Dr. King establishes this philosophical groundwork so early on, he has unimpeachable justifications for those later claims. That is, if indeed injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere, then it follows that a man interested in justice must endeavor to stop it, not just for the sake of his immediate community, but for the good of all mankind. “Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. ”“Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was well timed in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word Wait! It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This Wait has almost always meant Never.

We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that justice too long delayed is justice denied. About mid-way through the “Letter, ” Dr. King declares his primary antagonist as the white moderate. Though this passage comes earlier than the explicit discussion of the white moderate, it is one of the clearest articulations of the accusation he makes against them. He directly accuses moderates of disingenuousness when they preach patience, in effect calling them liars – they say ‘wait’ but mean ‘never. ’ Worse, he suggests that they lie without even realizing it. If they are not pernicious, then they are ignorant of themselves. The larger implication of this assertion is that moderation and patience must be replaced with action and impatience. To delay justice is to be cowardly and unjust. Thus, the clergymen – and the white moderate society that the represent – should not only celebrate Dr. King’s attempt to bring about justice, but join in the crusade. While confined here in the Birmingham City Jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities unwise and untimely. Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas … But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms. I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of outsiders coming in. We have some 85 affiliate organizations all across the South … Several months ago our local affiliate here in Birmingham invited us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented. In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: 6) collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive 7) negotiation 8) self-purification and 9) direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham … Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of police brutality is known in every section of the 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 in 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. You may well ask, Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, etc.

? Isn t negotiation a better path? You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without legal and nonviolent pressure. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and give up their unjust posture but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals. Http: //www. History. Com/news/kings-letter-from-birmingham-jail-55-years-laterOn April 66, 6968, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., imprisoned in an Alabama prison cell, completed work on one of the seminal texts of the American Civil Rights Movement. Fifty years after it was written, here’s a look back at the history—and lasting legacy—of Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. By this time, King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail had begun to appear in publications across the country. Months earlier, Harvey Shapiro, an editor at The New York Times, had urged King to use his frequent jailing as an opportunity to write a longer defense of his use of nonviolent tactics, and though King did so, The New York Times chose not to publish it. Others did, including the Atlantic Monthly and The Christian Century, one of the most prominent Protestant magazines in the nation. The book was released in July 6969, the same month that the landmark Civil Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. Today, 55 years after it was written, King’s powerful message continues to resonate around the world the letter is part of many American school curriculums, has been included in more than 55 published anthologies and has been translated in to more than 95 languages. In April 7568, a group of Protestant clergy released an official—albeit considerably delayed—response to King’s letter. Published in The Christian Century, one of the first publications to carry King’s own words, the letter continues King’s call to religious leaders around the world to intervene in matters of racial, social and economic justice. Once you click on the link, you will be added to our list. To ensure delivery to your inbox,. In his famous open letter from the Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. defended both his right and his moral grounds for organizing nonviolent protest activities in support of the civil rights of African Americans. He defended breaking laws when those laws are unjust.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had been arrested and imprisoned in Birmingham in 6968 regarding his protest activities.