Examples of Injustice in Birmingham: Government Corruption and Social Injustice

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Opposing Government Systems

In Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” and MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” MLK and Thoreau both oppose the government system. Martin is focused on social injustice, and Henry focuses more on the corruption of the government. Both of these intellectual men expressed their opinions on civil problems during their individual time periods. MLK’s motive for this letter was to show his point of view on social injustice from the government. For example, racial discrimination. The purpose that Henry David Thoreau is trying to express is his opinion on the government, persuading others that it is bad.

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This letter started off with MLK complimenting the eight white clergymen who condemned him publicly. Even though the clergymen were portraying the protesters as extremist lawbreakers, MLK sort of sides with their actions against him and the others. He describes the men’s actions as ”genuine good will”. Throughout the letter, MLK defends his actions, stating they were imperative and that he was in the right place at the right time. Even though the critics (clergymen) expressed concerns about MLK’s behavior, King switched the table around and discussed their behavior regarding systematic racism. As a Christian minister, King has a deep understanding of the Bible and the history of Christianity, which he uses to his advantage in this letter. He knows that differentiating the protesters from the early Christians places his critics in the role of the enemies of independence. He then mentions to his critics that the protesters are American citizens, and therefore, they are not outsiders in their own country.

Thoreau’s Stand Against Taxation and the Power of the People

Thoreau explains to his readers that he was jailed for refusing to pay a tax that would benefit the government directly. He specifies the great things he was educated on from prison in hopes that his readers will no longer fear the law but will fight for what they deserve. Thoreau speaks of the power of the people, presenting the theory of the majority. When the power is in the hands of the people, the majority rules, although most times, their decisions aren’t always best for our nation as a whole. Most of our “Majority” are persuaded, threatened, or scared into this party. Some even chose the majority class to increase social rank, not listening to their own thoughts. Then Thoreau ends with a rhetorical question, wondering when the opposite party can also decide right from wrong. Thoreau ends his essay with a confident tone, reminding people that it is achievable to see change.

Examples of Injustice in Birmingham

MLK goes into detail about the certain steps he had to take in his decision to protest. At the end of the letter, King states that he is like them, a man looking to spread peace but, unlike them, has been imprisoned for his actions. “Letter from Birmingham Jail” lays out MLK’s reasons for direct action against racial inequities, using the tactic of civil disobedience. The letter, written in response to criticism from Christian leaders, parallels Thoreau’s view that it is the duty of a moral individual to oppose injustice in society. King argues that civil disobedience is not the tactic of an anarchist but a practical method for “creating the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.” In other words, King believes that the actions of resisters develop both the consciousness and conscience of a community, enabling individuals to pursue the universal laws of justice and unity.

A moral individual cannot be limited by the confines of human law—particularly the laws of the majority imposed upon a minority—since laws themselves may be unjust, or they may perpetuate injustice through unjust application. To demonstrate his point, King notes that Hitler’s actions were lawful, although profoundly immoral, whereas Jesus’ actions, though unlawful, were universally moral. Thus, King confronts his critics to consider the passivity of several Christian churches and white moderates on a moral level that oversteps human law. King’s letter also provides concrete examples of principles in action by discussing specific injustices against the African-American community, the stages of an effective nonviolent campaign, and examples of civil disobedience designed to achieve justice within segregated communities.

Referring to himself and others as nonviolent resisters involved in an ongoing nonviolent direct-action program, King highlights the role of nonviolence in achieving the gains already experienced by African- Americans in cities throughout the South. That is to say, “Letter from Birmingham Jail” endures within the larger context of a rewarding national movement, which clearly demonstrated that the theories of civil disobedience can transform a society when applied strategically and nonviolently.

Differentiating Just and Unjust Laws

MLK goes on to explain the difference between a just law and an unjust law. He states, “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. “MLK then goes on to use examples such as unquestionable Nazi laws. King also states, “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws””. Personally, I agree with his entire letter. I also believe we have all got certain ”natural rights”. In other words, to me, there exists something like a ”moral law” or a ”Godly law”. His explanations of what is just and what is unjust are exactly the same as my ideas about them. 


  1. Thoreau, H. D. (1849). Civil Disobedience.
  2. King Jr., M. L. (1963). Letter from Birmingham Jail. 
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Examples of Injustice in Birmingham: Government Corruption and Social Injustice. (2023, Sep 06). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/examples-of-injustice-in-birmingham-government-corruption-and-social-injustice/