Letter from Birmingham Jail – Martin Luther King Jr. (April 16, 1963)


“The Letter from Birmingham Jail, also known as the Letter from Birmingham City Jail and The Negro Is Your Brother, is an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by Martin Luther King Jr. The letter defends the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism. It says that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws and to take direct action rather than waiting potentially forever for justice to come through the courts. Responding to being referred to as an ‘outsider’, King writes, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’. The letter, written during the 1963 Birmingham campaign, was widely published, and became an important text for the American Civil Rights MovementThe Birmingham campaign began on April 3, 1963, with coordinated marches and sit-ins against racism and racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. The nonviolent campaign was coordinated by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) and King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). On April 10, Circuit Judge W. A. Jenkins issued a blanket injunction against ‘parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing.’ Leaders of the campaign announced they would disobey the ruling. On April 12, King was roughly arrested with SCLC activist Ralph Abernathy, ACMHR and SCLC official Fred Shuttlesworth and other marchers, while thousands of African Americans dressed for Good Friday looked on. King was met with unusually harsh conditions in the Birmingham jail. An ally smuggled in a newspaper from April 12, which contained A Call for Unity, a statement by eight white Alabama clergymen against King and his methods. The letter provoked King, and he began to write a response on the newspaper itself. King writes in Why We Can’t Wait: ‘Begun on the margins of the newspaper in which the statement appeared while I was in jail, the letter was continued on scraps of writing paper supplied by a friendly black trusty, and concluded on a pad my attorneys were eventually permitted to leave me.’ The letter responded to several criticisms made by the ‘A Call for Unity‘ clergymen, who agreed that social injustices existed but argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not the streets. As a minister, King responded to these criticisms on religious grounds. …”
Wikipedia
“Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.]”
YouTube: Letter From Birmingham Jail


His reply was eventually composed and stitched together to form what is now known as the 6,921-word ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail,’ dated Tuesday, April 16, 1963.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

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This entry was posted in Civil Rights Mov., MLKJr., Pacifist, Religion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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