The Letter from Birmingham jail essay describes the contents of an open letter written by Dr Martin Luther King Junior, while in a jail cell, in response to eight white Alabama clergy members who criticized his actions in Birmingham in 1963. It spells out the racial and economic injustice that the African Americans were experiencing during that time. This was why they were having a nonviolent protest, which resulted in him being arrested and taken to Birmingham jail.
Letter from Birmingham jail by martin Luther King Jr
King’s letter starts by saying that he had come across the white clergymen’s statement that called their activities “untimely and unwise.” He describes how much criticism he faces every day, but for that one statement, he will try to explain to the religious leaders in reasonable terms.
King explains his position as the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. As a community, they shared educational and financial resources from time to time as one of the reasons why they were invited to Birmingham in sit-ins to engage in a nonviolent direct action program. He also gave the reason for racial injustice that had swept Birmingham at the time as the main reason for his participation in acting against the oppression of the African people.
He gave them an example from the Bible of Apostle Paul leaving his village of Tarsus to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ of freedom to the city of Greco in the Roman world. He did this to try and describe his purpose in Alabama from a religious angle that the clergymen from the Alabama Christian movement could understand. He wanted them to know the African American citizens’ injustices despite being called Americans.
Martin Luther King’s letter explains that if someone lives in the United States, they cannot be considered outsiders since they all share one destiny. If something affects one community, the whole community is also affected. Therefore, the racial discrimination in Alabama was the reason for the civil disobedience that the white church was condemning.
King wrote in the letter four basic steps that a nonviolent direct action seeks, but they were never successful in resolving the unjust laws, which proved to be negro’s great stumbling block after following these steps.
Martin Luther’s Steps for Nonviolent Campaign
Step 1: Collection of Facts- King goes ahead to give the facts of situations occurring in Alabama. He describes the Birmingham police force being brutal to colored people, ugly and inhumane treatment of African Americans, brown and yellow brothers being denied justice in courts, and the bombing of Negro homes and Churches by vicious mobs lynch.
Step 2: Negotiation -With the facts spelled out, negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers but were unsuccessful. They tried to later speak to the economic community, who promised to remove humiliating racial signs. The segregation laws imposed in Birmingham saw that signs were put up to separate whites from colored areas, which further worsened the most thoroughly segregated city. The promises were never fulfilled, and the signs remained up.
Step 3: Self Purification- Since the negotiations were unsuccessful, they decided to have workshops on nonviolence and readying themselves for direct action against unjust laws they were facing.
Step 4: Direct Action- Direct action was decided against the affluent society after many postponements due to various issues happening at the time, like the elections taking place in Birmingham. King tried to explain that the action was not decided upon hastily but was well thought.
King goes further to explain the importance of raising tension to make people aware of what is happening around them instead of being ignorant. He gives an example where Socrates practiced civil disobedience to rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal. In the same way, they used nonviolent action to create awareness of African Americans being denied fundamental human rights.
The letter from Birmingham also mentions that the clergymen stated that the nonviolent action was untimely and that Dr King should have given the new administration time to act on their demands. King writes plainly that both the outgoing and incoming administration are segregationists and that only by applying pressure would there be any change.
Martin Luther argues that African Americans have waited with a legitimate and unavoidable impatience to be recognized as full Americans but to no avail. They have always been asked to wait, but the ‘wait’ was considered a ‘never’. This is because they have been waiting for their God-given constitutional rights to be met for three hundred and forty years.
King writes about the grim lynches of old negro women, negro men, young boys of negro descent, and young negro girls. He goes further to give examples of twenty million negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty amid such an affluent society. He Explains that the negro brothers are also tongue twisted while explaining to their six-year-old daughters why colored children cannot go to the public parks as they see tears running down their cheeks when told this.
Martin Luther King Jr went ahead to address their legitimate concern of them being anxious over King’s willingness to break the law. He tried to explain that there are two kinds of laws. There are just and unjust laws. A just law is a kind of law that squares with the moral law or the law of God, and an unjust law is a law that is out of harmony with the moral law. He also used an example of Daniel, Shadrack, Meshak, and Abednego from the Bible, who used civil disobedience by being willing to face hungry lions and the pain of chopping blocks before submitting to the unjust Roman laws.
King later addresses the Christian and Jewish brothers from Alabama to explain his disappointment with the white moderates devoted to order rather than justice. He also mentions many church ministers who never supported him or his bid to free African Americans from the claws of unjust laws in Birmingham, Alabama. The white ministers are accused of staying on the sidelines while the negroes fight for academic and economic security since they claim these issues are not associated with the church.
He writes of the glory days when the church was powerful in society, and their word listened to, but have now become weak and a second thought of the community. He tries to warn the church that if they do not adapt to the early practices of Christianity, they will only be considered a social club and lose millions of believers, and be dismissed as irrelevant.
Dr Kings closes the letter by condemning the white clergymen for praising the Birmingham police force for keeping order and preventing violence. He explains why he feels their actions were not commendable by citing examples of how the police dogs were violently biting unarmed, nonviolent Negroes, and inhumane treatment of Negroes by the police force. He writes that the old, appressed, and battered negro women are the ones to be commended since they risked their lives in search of justice during the protest.
The letter from Birmingham concludes by Martin Luther King jr apologizing for writing such a long letter that would take some time to read. He explains that he had ample time sitting in a Birmingham jail cell alone to gather up his thoughts, think strange thoughts, and pray long prayers. He finishes the letter by apologizing if they felt offended for laying the truth to the clergymen, and if there was no truth to any of that, he asks God to forgive him.
What was the main point of the letter from Birmingham jail?
The main point of the Birmingham jail letter was a response to the white Christian clergymen. They gave a statement condemning the nonviolent direct action that Dr Martin Luther King and the rest of African American community took. It was done as a protest to the unjust segregation laws that were degrading the Negroes dignity as human beings and against God’s moral law.
He gave examples of the specific ways that their rights were undermined and how the clergymen had the social responsibility to uphold every person’s moral right not to be subjected to unjust laws of the society.
What did King’s Letter Argue?
The letter from Birmingham jail argued against the high and mighty attitude of the white clergymen from Birmingham, Alabama, who condemned Martin Luther and the whole African American community of Birmingham for taking direct action against the unjust laws that they were subjected to. King argued that they being Christians, should be the ones to uphold the moral responsibility of condemning the unfair law that the Negroes were facing in Alabama.
These laws were breaking the civil rights of the Negroes and the moral law that God gives each human being. He explained that such a crisis could only be addressed by direct action since negotiations fell on deaf ears of Birmingham’s affluent and economic community.
An Analysis of The Letter From A Birmingham Jail
The letter from a Birmingham jail by Dr Martin Luther King talks about the African Americans’ injustice in the United States before the civil rights movement that gave the Negroes equal opportunities as American citizens. It further criticizes the Christian clergymen, the affluent white society, and the economic community in Birmingham for not supporting their efforts to fight against segregation laws that were oppressing the African Americans at the time. King junior further tried to convince these clergymen how these segregations were being used to oppress the Negroes and that their inaction in such a crisis would not change how they were treated.
Dr King mentions several pieces of evidence that African Americans faced, which made them feel inferior to the white race. He also addresses the fact that justice cannot be delayed or postponed against the unjust laws they were facing. King finally finished the letter by asking the white clergymen to support and help them negotiate with the rest of the society instead of condemning their actions publicly and further distancing themselves from the unequal treatment they were receiving.
Martin Luther King James Mlk Speech: The MLK Speech
Dr Martin Luther King jr has given several speeches throughout his career that addressed the several ways that African Americans were facing despite slavery being abolished by President Abraham Lincoln. Most of his speeches touched on the fighting for equal justice for the Negroes subjected to mob lynches and justice denied at the court of laws in the United States.
Their white counterparts felt that African Americans were inferior to them because of their skin color and that not long ago, they considered them slaves to be bought and sold off like property. Martin Luther King spoke about these issues that made the white, affluent societies uncomfortable since they knew that they were being put on the spot by an African American man.
King spoke about a not too distant tomorrow where the White and African races came together and lived together as brothers and sisters in the great country of United America. He spoke of equal opportunities that each American should be granted since they are all citizens of America. Dr King encouraged many African Americans to stand up and hold nonviolent direct action against the oppression they were forced to face by their white oppressors. He felt that this was the only way to fight against the unjust laws that the Negroes were facing during that time in America.
Luther king jr essay for job oriented education essay
According to Dr. King, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character is the goal of true education.” While Dr. King was leading a civil rights movement, he focused on education as a critical component to equality in America. King believed that education should give a man utility and culture to perform both for himself and society. He believed that education helped a man reach his goals in life and become a valuable member of society.
The letter from the Birmingham jail essay puts a spotlight on the hell the African Americans were going through at the time. On top of this humiliation of unjust laws, they were being criticized by the people supposed to uphold moral law accorded to each human being. Acts like viscous mob lynching against the African brothers and sisters were disheartening considering no one supported them. Even after taking nonviolent direct action against their oppressors, they were still regarded as inconsiderate in their efforts to protest.
Dr. Martin Luther encouraged the Christian clergymen to stand with them since this was the only way any real change would come from the unfair treatment of the affluent white society. He challenged them with the disobedience of Shadrack, Meshak, and Abednego from the Bible when they disobeyed the King, which led them to be thrown in the pit of fire.
Dr King has always been at the forefront to speak about the unfair treatment of African Americans and was one of the leaders who started the civil rights movement that brought about change in the American constitution.
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