The Full Wiki

Letter from Birmingham Jail: Wikis

Advertisements
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Letter from Birmingham Jail or Letter from Birmingham City Jail, is an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by Martin Luther King, Jr., an American civil rights leader. King wrote the letter from the city jail in Birmingham, Alabama, where he was confined after being arrested for his part in the Birmingham campaign, a planned non-violent protest conducted by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference against racial segregation by Birmingham's city government and downtown retailers.

King's letter is a response to a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen on April 12, 1963, titled "A Call For Unity". The clergymen agreed that social injustices existed but argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not in the streets. King responded that without nonviolent forceful direct actions such as his, true civil rights could never be achieved. As he put it, "This 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.'" He asserted that not only was civil disobedience justified in the face of unjust laws, but that "one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

Extensive excerpts from the letter were published, without King's consent, on May 19, 1963 in the New York Post Sunday Magazine. [1] The letter was first published as "Letter from Birmingham Jail" in the June, 1963 issue of Liberation[2] the June 12, 1963, edition of The Christian Century,[3] and in the June 24, 1963, issue of The New Leader. It was reprinted shortly thereafter in The Atlantic Monthly. King included the full text in his 1964 book Why We Can't Wait.

The letter includes the famous statement "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," as well as the words attributed to William Ewart Gladstone quoted by King: "[J]ustice too long delayed is justice denied."

Citations

  • Direct Action Explained
    • "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
    • "In any nonviolent campaign, there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustice exists; negotiations; self-purification; and direct action."
    • "Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored."
    • "I must confess that I am not afraid of the word 'tension.'"
    • "We know through painful experiences that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed".
  • Two Types of Laws
    • "One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that 'an unjust law is no law at all'."
    • "A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law."
    • "Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust."
    • "An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal."
    • "One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty."
  • Two Types of Peace
    • "I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate."
    • "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."
    • "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."
    • "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."
    • "We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right."
  • Extremism
    • "Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever."
    • "The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them."
    • "Was not Jesus an extremist for love"
    • "Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel"
  • Disappointment
    • "I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership."
    • "I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen."
    • "There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love."
    • "We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom."
    • "We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands."
    • "Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek."
  • One Day
    • "One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence."
    • "Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."

References

  1. ^ Blessed are the peacemakers, S. Jonathan Bass, p. 140
  2. ^ Liberation: An Independent Monthly. June, 1963 (page 10-16, 23)
  3. ^ Reprinted in Reporting Civil Rights, Part One - (page 777- 794) - American Journalism 1941 - 1963. The Library of America

External links

Advertisements

Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message