King Birmingham Jail

Essay by aperkoCollege, UndergraduateA, November 2008

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Context of “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. explains in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” the injustice that he has suffered. Six aspects of context influenced his letter which made the writing as powerful as it was. The importance of his purpose to his intended audience served as the motivation for his quick response answering recent accusations. Due to the timeliness of his response and his confinement, this helped him to build credibility with his readers. The fact that it was in the form of a published letter sparked the interests of many. His attitude was passionate towards segregation and injustice as he expressed his disappointment with the white moderate. The six aspects of context influenced Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”Martin Luther King Jr.’s purpose for writing the letter was to explain the injustice that was occurring not only Birmingham, but in the South in general, starting the movement to end segregation.

King stated, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here” (253). He was talking about the segregation that was going on in Birmingham, specifically because he was currently in jail for organizing a peaceful protest without a permit. King’s purpose for writing the letter was to explain his previous actions as a response to the clergymen, and to show the general public the injustice he had endured. Having a law that requires a permit for organizing a parade was not the problem; the problem was when the law was being enforced to segregate African Americans, essentially taking away their First Amendment rights. He felt injustice needed to be eliminated because it was affecting Birmingham, the South, and the entire country. King states, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (253). Injustice was a problem...