Dr. Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" : The Unfairness of State Laws

Essay by Tiny_ChelleCollege, UndergraduateA+, August 2006

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In his letter to local clergymen which he wrote from a jail in Birmingham Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave many examples to justify the breaking of Alabama state law.

In the opening of his letter, he chastizes the local clergymen for focusing more on the effects of a problem, rather than focussing on the problem itself. If African Americans were given equal treatment to that of whites, the incidents preceeding King's arrest would not have occured. But as it was, the unjust laws that had been set up in Birmingham left the African American community with, "no other alternative" Likewise, if the leaders of Birmingham had responded to negotiations, further campaign would not have been neccessary.

The campeign which King and his friends undertook was nonviolent, and that the African American community had "gone through all of these steps" involved with the idea of a nonviolant campaign.

Dr. King felt that oppression of race had gone on long enoguh. He stated that, "We have waited for more than 340 for our constitutional and God-given rights". He thought it unjust that a person of color could not even get a cup of coffee at the counter in a diner. King further justifies the breaking of Alabama laws by stating, "...there are two types of laws: There are just laws, and unjust laws." King defines an unjust law as, "any law that degredates human personality...". Therefore, the laws of Alabama were unjust laws, and the local clergymen, as Christians, could not condone them, "One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

To further point out that not all laws are "moral" and "just", King sites the examples of Nazi Germany, and Hungary: The Holocaust of the Jews in Nazi Germany, and all throughout Europe was perfectly "legal"; but, the...