Essay about “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr
Martin Luther King Jr., in “ Letter From A Birmingham Jail”(1963), responds to the eight white clergymen who criticized King’s actions in Birmingham as “unwise and untimely”. King was born on January of 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. King grew up in Atlanta, he attended Booker T. Washington High School . King in 1948, graduated at the age of 19 from Morehouse with a B.A. in sociology. King had later enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with a B.Div. degree in 1951. He founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. This conference started to conduct nonviolent protests to gain civil rights to minorities. King lead this organization until his death, he lead marches, and gave speeches. King was also part of the community that looked into the Montgomery bus boycott case in 1955. In 1963 of April King, began a campaign on the segregation happening in Birmingham, Alabama. They used the methods of peaceful protesting. In 1954, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. A strong worker for civil rights for members of his race, King was a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Not only that but King made speeches such as “ I Have A Dream”, which called for equality and peace. Another role he played in the Civil Rights Movement was part of the Montgomery Bus Boycott where King was the leader and spokesman. The biggest and most important association of them all. In “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, King appeals to the heart and minds of the clergymen by alluding to the moral authority of christian traditions, American Ideals, and the collective suffering of African Americans.
Martin Luther King compares his actions in Birmingham to important religious authorities and christian beliefs in order to show that the religious authorities have done what King is doing in the past,but have not had the same consequences as King. He believes that he should not be thrown in jail because religious authorities like Apostle Paul have also fought for equality using religion and christian beliefs. Apostle Paul was an Apostle who taught the gospel of Christ to the first- century world.Apostle Paul and King both had the same beliefs and both fought for christian religion and equality. King argues that if the clergymen are really religious how they claim to be, then the clergymen would understand that they made a mistake calling his actions in Birmingham jail unwise and untimely because it was fighting for civil rights. In the Letter From a Birmingham Jail, King states “I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all”. St. Augustine was an important early Christian philosopher who believed in just laws. He followed the word of Christ and spread it as much as he possibly could. King basically writes to the clergymen questioning them because they do not like what King is doing but they support these religious figures who both fought for the same thing as King, which is civil rights and equality. King fought because there was segregation occurring in the South and he believed that all humans should be treated the same. Segregation was a way to oppress the African American people . Another way that King justifies his actions in Birmingham is the way he starts off his letter. He begins with “ My Dear fellow clergymen” by doing this King puts himself to their level because King is also a believer and follower of god, Christian faith, and equality. King uses this time to remind the Clergymen of the history of injustice laws.
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Not only does King compare his actions in Birmingham to religious Christian figures but he also uses the collective suffering of African Americans. King states, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed”. King brings up that African Americans had a difficult time in the U.S in the past. They had to deal with unfair treatment and unjust laws. King believes that suppressing the protest in Birmingham is unjust because all he wanted was for segregation to end and for African Americans and everyone else in the world to be treated equal. Segregation was a form of suppressing people of color and King argues that history has time and time again proven that oppression is inhumane and unjust. This belief led King to march to Birmingham to peacefully protest his rights. He also states,”Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as ‘ dirty nigger lovers”. King uses this to show that segregation was so bad they even mistreated other races who tried to help the African Americans get equal rights. They were thrown in jail and also suffered consequences for no humane reason. People of color were being racially targeted due to white supremacism. King wants people to learn from the past, he wants equality for every person.
King uses American Ideals to justify his peaceful protest in Birmingham Alabama. One American Ideal that King uses is by Thomas Jefferson. King states,”And Thomas Jefferson:’We hold these truths to be self evident , that all men are created equal’. He uses this important political figure to justify his actions because Jefferson believed every person should be treated equally. King was fighting for Civil Rights, which talks about everyone being equal. King does this because he wants to bring attention to these historical moments to remind the world to learn from their mistakes. King also uses Abraham Lincoln,” And Abraham Lincoln :’This nation cannot survive half slave and half free’. King does not want to repeat history. He does not want the people of color to remained suppressed just like before in history when they were oppressed with slavery. These are important historical figures who were great leaders and had belief in equality for every human being. Lincoln fought for slaves when they were first treated as property, he knew slavery was not equality so he fought to change that just like King is fighting for equality instead of segregation. King asks the Clergymen as to why it is fine for Lincoln to fight for equality but not King.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy was “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. He believed the segregation to be unequal,the method King used to fight back against segregation was peacefully protesting. He followed in the shoes of Gandhi and Jesus Christ because all of King’s protests were peaceful on his part and it was for Civil Rights. Kings most important achievement in life was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights act allowed minorities to vote, and eliminated segregation. After the death of King there was still people fighting for Civil Rights. Today Civil Rights has expanded and improved. New movements and organizations have been formed to fight for other rights that have been denied some of these movements are Black Lives Matter movement and the L.G.B.T.Q. Both of these organizations fight for equality. King closes his epistle with a note of hope and optimism for America.