'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.
Letter From a Birmingham Jail The Martin Luther King Jr
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. '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.
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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.