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Letter from a Birminham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Essay by review  •  November 23, 2010  •  Essay  •  413 Words (2 Pages)  •  977 Views

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Summary of "Letter from Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King, Jr.

In Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail, he responds to a letter entitled Statement by Alabama Clergymen. In King's letter, he makes it clear that he does not usually answer letters of criticism, but because this one came from educated men he felt the need to clarify his purposes, actions, and goals of this civil rights campaign.

King first states he is in Birmingham because he has affiliates there who asked him to come. His goal is to spread the word of freedom like Paul spread the Word of God. King and other African American leaders had tried to negotiate with city leaders, but only to be offered broken promises. Their only choice is to organize nonviolent campaigns and create enough tension so the city is forced to respond. King believes the African Americans have been without an identity for too long and have suffered enough.

King justifies these sit-ins and other campaigns by talking about two kinds of laws: just and unjust. The unjust laws, which exploit the minorities, should be broken in public and done with love so their point will be made in the best manner. The greatest opponents of the civil rights movement, though, are the white moderates. King believed this because they were willing to agree with their cause, but were unwilling to deal with the tension and sacrifices to achieve their goal.

King also responds to being called an extremist. He is at first shocked because he has always tried to find the medium of being a pacifist and a radical. Later he comes to the conclusion that one can also be fanatical about such things as love and justice and is encouraged by these thoughts.

The leadership of the church is also addressed in this letter. He expected support from them but only received opposition. He is very disappointed in the lack of help but only because of his deep love and connection with the church.

In his last few paragraphs King challenges the clergymen to praise the sit-inners and demonstrators for their great courage instead of the police. While the police were supposedly keeping order, they were the ones who responded with violence.

King ends his letter apologizing if anything he has said is not in truth or peace. He also says that he would like to meet the clergymen as Christian brothers and prays their differences can be solved.

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