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Martin Luther King Jr's "letter from Birmingham Jail" - Unjust or Just

Essay by   •  September 22, 2011  •  Case Study  •  1,201 Words (5 Pages)  •  2,006 Views

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Just or unjust?

Martin Luther King Jr's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" was written in reply to the eight Clergymen, who had previously published a statement in the local Birmingham Newspaper regarding the recent protests in which Martin Luther King Jr. led. In the statement the Clergymen had criticized King's acts as "unwise and untimely" (1). Martin Luther King Jr. felt that since the Clergymen were men of "genuine goodwill" (1) he would try to give reasonable answers to their statements. Martin Luther King Jr. was looking to get equal rights for all and to put an end to segregation for good. His overall message is for them to overcome the differences and rejoice as one .

One of the first topics that Martin Luther King Jr. addresses is of the Clergymen calling him an outsider. Being the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization that operates in every Southern state, King was called upon by the affiliate in Birmingham. In his view he is not an outsider as he has organizational ties as well as a commitment to the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. King also goes on to state, "I am in Birmingham because injustice is here."(1). Not only does he feel compelled to uphold his duties as the president of the SCLC; he needs to stand for his belief that this type of behavior is unacceptable. He also says that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" (1). I liked this quote in particular because it explains a lot of what Martin Luther King Jr. was fighting for. He did not just want to end segregation in the state he was living in, but also to put an end to it entirely for all of America.

Next King goes on to express his concern for what brought upon the demonstrations in the first place. Birmingham was probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. It also had seen more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches than any other city in the nation. This was just an example of the racism that kept occurring in Birmingham . (King 2) Negro leaders tried to negotiate with the city fathers but they were met with refusal. It seems that the steps that were set agreed upon were not met based on the continued placement of racial signs in stores. Once he felt there was no other alternative King prepared for direct action. Direct action was a product of failed negotiations. The marches, sit-ins, demonstrations, and protests were needed to bring the issue forward to the point of no longer being ignored .

"The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue" (King3)

King was also called out for his direct action being untimely. At this point there was not going to be a good time to act, it had to be done now as "There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair" (King 4). The time was set for around the Easter holiday because this would be the biggest shopping period except for Christmas. King stated that, "Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by-product

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