Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

Essay by thebiggestcheater April 2006

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"Letter from Birmingham" Lina Sandoval Birmingham 1963 Martin Luther King Jr., is one of the most recognized, if not the greatest civil rights activist in this century. He has written papers and given speeches on the civil rights movement, but one piece stands out as one of his best writings. Letter from Birmingham was an intriguing letter written by King in jail in the city of Birmingham, Alabama. He was responding to a letter which was written by eight Alabama Clergyman that was published in a Birmingham Alabama newspaper in 1963, regarding the demonstrations which were occurring to stop segregation.

The intended audience for this letter was of course the eight clergymen, but he also had a wider audience in mind because instead of sending each individual man a letter he had it published in the local newspaper. In his letter, King starts by addressing the clergyman with My Dear Fellow Clergyman as if to put the men at ease and keep them open-minded.

(Frady, 32-37) In the first paragraph King states that he does not usually respond to such correspondence, but compliments them by saying that since they are genuinely good men, then he would respond to their criticisms by writing this letter. In the second paragraph, he addresses the outsider issue.

In the letter written by the clergyman they say (like it was something new), that they were now facing demonstrations led by outsiders (King). King wants them to know that he is not really an outsider but the president of The Southern Christian Leadership Conference with an affiliation in Birmingham. He wants to point out that he not only has organizational ties but also was invited to participate in the direct action program in Birmingham in support of desegregation. In the course of the letter, King...