Reflection on Martin Luther King’s Letter

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Updated: Mar 14, 2023
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“In Martin Luther King Jr’s “The Letter from Birmingham Jail,”” King proudly writes, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”” This quote reminds us that one’s actions have an indirect effect on others and King believes that although he lives in Atlanta if people impede other’s rights in Birmingham, it will affect himself regardless. In response to the accusation that he is an outsider, King aspires to call for change not simply in his hometown, but everywhere.

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From Birmingham Jail, where he was imprisoned as a participant in nonviolence demonstrations against segregation, King wrote this letter in a public statement of concern and defends the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism. Instead of waiting for potential justice, King argues that people have a moral responsibility to fight unjust laws and take direct action. MLK places a heavy emphasis on love in a community. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, argument can reinvigorate community life today because he reminds us how to handle injustices through non-violence creative resistance and simply and natural law.

While many people disapproved of the tensions that King and others caused by their public actions through sit-ins and marches, and King emphasized that he and his fellow demonstrators were using nonviolent direct action. Nonviolent direct action “seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.”

The goal of this direct action is to push meaningful negotiations between the African-American and white communities, without this, King believed that true civil rights could never be achieved. MLK felt as though the African American community was left with “no [other] alternative.”” However, before King takes action, he states that there are four steps in following this nonviolent direct action. Initially, it is crucial to collect evidence to determine if injustices exist and if so, then one can proceed with the talks through negotiations. If a community is just, note that these are the only two steps that need to be taken to discuss and deal with injustices. If nothing changes, one can continue with self-purification expressed through self-control and creating a plan for further action.

Finally, to dramatize the issue, direct-action through protests or other various forms can take place. I believe that in building and fostering a community, one must recognize the injustices that exist and push to solve them. A community that is not built on love and sameness cannot allow everyone to prosper. When you treat everyone the same, it allows people to differ. Through the nonviolent direct action, MLK shows us that we do not need to always take direct or physical action but to remember that we must be willing to go to great lengths to fight for community. He reminds us that the community is fostered through a sense of unity. Once you decide if injustices exist and take the necessary actions to change them, King argues that this civil disobedience is not only justified apart unjust laws but is necessary. He states, “I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One does not have only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws.

Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.'”” King conveys that a while a law is our rule that measures and judges our actions if the law is unjust, it is then out of harmony with natural law. Natural law is a universal law and applies to all, and it is eternal and does not change so society must determine their course of action through civil laws and natural laws, which guide us in our loving. This stems from the idea that humans can hold their own opinions because we naturally form our opinions. Laws should mirror the values of a community, and those involved. If the laws do not respect those values, then those laws should not be considered laws at all. Furthermore, a community should live by their values and if a community does not abide by their laws, then it should not be considered a community at all. I think that this argument is so central to the modern day because, like King, I believe that an unjust law degrades the human personality and reduces them to things and forces a separation that breeds double standards cannot foster a good community. King pushes us to reevaluate our civil and moral laws. It is clear “The Letter From Birmingham” can apply to almost every community.

As a part of the Villanova University community, students, and faculty strives to live out the Augustinian beliefs of Unitas, Veritas, and Caritas; meaning to love thy neighbor, promote community unity, and to live life in moderation. Villanova preaches to accept ourselves and others, that being said, any account of the human community has an implicit account of human nature. Keep in mind also that the strength of a community lies within the individuals, and their values as well, communities can only grow if people help others, be good to them and love them. Villanova as an institution cannot prosper and grow if there is no community to support it and it is important that their actions show their values. More than 50 years have passed since Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, but his message remains prevalent today. He closes “The Letter From Birmingham Jail” on a hopeful note by expressing his belief that African-Americans will achieve the freedom and equality they are fighting for.

While society has made strides since the time that MLK was alive, there are still so many injustices that are clear in society, and now more than ever, I believe that MLK would like us to remember that every human is entitled to basic and dignified rights. In reminding us that there are so many ways to turn injustices to justice, MLK shows us that we can help reinvigorate the community.”

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Reflection on Martin Luther King's Letter. (2021, May 27). Retrieved from