Main Purpose of “Letter from Birmingham Jail”: King’s Fight against Injustice

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Updated: Aug 30, 2023
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The Context and Significance of “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most well-known leaders in the world and the most notable civil rights leader this country has ever seen. He spent endless amounts of effort fighting for his rights. In his letter from Birmingham Jail, he discusses the criticism and hate he endured on his journey. In this letter, he talks about the many people who considered his “non-violent” protests “extreme.”

One of this letter’s most significant pieces of information was this quote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That statement could not be more accurate. In our society, or even the society back then, if someone sees somebody else get away with a crime, that means they think they will be able to get away with a crime, which is an actual and devastating threat to society all around the country. It is unfair and plain wrong to have any injustice everywhere, especially when the primary goal of the court system is to punish anyone who breaks the law.

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King’s Assertion: Injustice is Universal

Martin Luther King Jr. talks about his main reason to be in Birmingham was because of the injustice that was taking place there. He prided himself on Birmingham because that was his hometown, and in a phrase, he says, “I am too compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown” (LFBJ 1). When you think about this particular saying by King, there is a direct correlation to the Bible. One specific verse that fits perfectly to his phrase comes from the book of Isaiah, which says, “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest” (Isaiah 32:18). This is essentially what King was pushing for. He wanted to ensure that the safety and rights of the people in his hometown of Birmingham were enforced properly and effectively.

Birmingham: The Epicenter of Racial Strife

When you think about Birmingham, Alabama, in the times of King, there is no doubt that it was one of, if not the most heavily segregated city in all of the United States of America. This involves the numerous times African Americans faced injustice in the courtrooms and the undeniable fact that police brutality was an everyday threat to their community back then. Even today, in our society, there are constant headlines in the news about police officers of Caucasian descent killing unarmed African Americans because they felt “threatened” or that they thought a gun was being drawn. When watching the news, the same headlines appear two weeks later, stating that the cop has been cleared and is set to return to the force in weeks to come. This is proof that there is still injustice involving the people of the African-American community.

It returns to King’s statement, “Injustice everywhere is a threat to justice anywhere” (LFBJ 1). This proves that the injustice back then may have affected our justice systems today and the ongoing racial issues between African-American citizens and police officers who are most likely Caucasian. King talks about the constant efforts of trying to meet with our country’s political leaders in hopes of negotiating with them out of quote-on-quote “good faith,” but they did nothing but refuse the terms and would continue to decline (LFBJ 1). Again, these political leaders refused because King was an African American, and what he was pushing for, the leaders of our political system at the time, wanted nothing to do with his beliefs and, quite frankly, the people of the African-American community.

King knew the price of his peaceful protests and that it was a high-risk, low reward. He made it very clear to the people of his community and those who wanted to partake in his rallies that there were questions to ask yourself. Those questions involved “Are you able to accept blows without retaliation?” as well as, quite frankly, the more critical question, “Are you able to endure the ordeals of jail?” (LFBJ 2). Sit back and put yourself in the shoes of the people involved in these protests, and ask yourself the same questions… Would you be able to answer yes to both honestly? Or would you choose to stay at home and not get involved? One thing that enabled King to be as successful as he was was the ability to look “tension” directly in the face and essentially laugh at it.

The Price of Peaceful Protests

King’s injustice quote had such an impact on this letter because of how true it is. Allowing any injustice was a direct threat to society back then and even our society today. All it takes is one person to catch light of the injustice demonstrated to cause a world filled with chaos. At this point, your race, wealth, or even something as small as your job doesn’t matter. Injustice threatens anyone who wants to see the justice system prosper as intended. Our society today is a place that revolves around the famous/wealthy person, which could come back to bite the court systems at the bottom.

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For example, look at Columbia’s government back when the drug industry was huge, and you had guys like Pablo Escobar constantly paying off government officials and judges to ensure he stayed out of prison and out of trouble. If there were any one incident of injustice today in our society, everyone would feel it would be okay to pay the court officials and judges off to ensure they stay free of any trouble.

To close this, Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist who changed the lives of the African-American community and everyone in the world. His constant efforts to push his beliefs of equality will never die. Today, we still honor his name and his ideas by continuing to go for the rights of the people and ensure that they are never infringed upon. He changed the lives of many because of one quote. That quote is his injustice quote. That quote provides the idea that in our society, or even the community if someone sees somebody else get away with a crime, they think they will be able to get away with crime, which is a devastating threat to society all around the country. It is unfair to have any injustice, especially when the primary goal of the court system is to punish anyone who refuses to follow the requirements and laws instilled in them.


  1. King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Letter from Birmingham Jail, King, Martin Luther. Letter from Birmingham Jail.
  2. Staff, BibleStudyTools. “Top 18 Bible Verses about Home – Inspiring Scripture Quotes.” Bible Study Tools, Salem Web Network, 19 Mar. 2018,

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Main Purpose of "Letter from Birmingham Jail": King's Fight Against Injustice. (2023, Aug 30). Retrieved from