I am here because I have basic organizational ties here. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. After this we felt that direct action could be delayed no longer. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. We have some eighty-five affiliate organizations all across the South, one being the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. The signs remained. The "Letter from Birmingham Jail", also known as the "Letter from Birmingham City Jail" and "The Negro Is Your Brother", is an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by Martin Luther King Jr. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else is there to do when you are alone for days in the dull monotony of a narrow jail cell other than write long letters, think strange thoughts, and pray long prayers? Asked by Steven A #660925 on 6/1/2017 11:31 PM Last updated by Aslan on 6/1/2017 11:41 PM Answers 1 Add Yours. Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. On the basis of these promises, Reverend Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to call a moratorium on any type of demonstration. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws. Letter From Birmingham Jail What connections can you make between this letter and modern times? Now, there is nothing wrong with an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade, but when the ordinance is used to preserve segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and peaceful protest, then it becomes unjust. All Rights Reserved. In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct action. On April 16, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. composed his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail.” It was addressed to “My Dear Fellow Clergymen,” and … The question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. I have chosen to examine his eloquent “Lett The mission of CORE is to provide vision, leadership, and guidance to The Summit Church in our pursuit of racial reconciliation, ethnic diversity, and gospel unity (John 17:20–23). I have been disappointed with the white church and its leadership. So we decided to go through a process of self-purification. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up the segregation laws was democratically elected? “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was written by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963 following his imprisonment for peacefully marching in conscientious opposition to a judge’s injunction. But again I have been disappointed. They have languished in filthy roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of angry policemen who see them as “dirty nigger lovers.” They, unlike many of their moderate brothers, have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. I pray you’ll spend some time with them in the coming days. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up over the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct-action movement that was “well timed” according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. I received a letter this morning from a white brother in Texas which said, “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but is it possible that you are in too great of a religious hurry? The Letter From A Birmingham Jail 809 Words | 4 Pages. It is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incurable devil. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. King promoted non-violent protests all over the country. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. If I have said anything in this letter that is an understatement of the truth and is indicative of an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. Its ugly record of police brutality is known in every section of this country. So we had no alternative except that of preparing for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and national community. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society. “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal …”. I meet young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright disgust. We will be sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Mr. Boutwell will bring the millennium to Birmingham. Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? At this time we agreed to begin our nonviolent witness the day after the runoff. Dr. King called for an end to racial injustice, not by appealing to current laws or even to the will of the majority (both of those, at the time, were against him! him! They wrote, “We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. If you have never taken the time to read the letter that Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, you should. Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” Still Speaks to Us Today, Dr. King’s letter confronted inaction and passivity with the authority of a biblical worldview, particularly one shaped by the gospel. The mission of CORE is to provide vision, leadership, and guidance to The Summit Church in our pursuit of racial reconciliation, ethnic diversity, and gospel unity (John 17:20–23). However, I’m so grateful that it’s public and that I as a 42 year old white woman, can listen and learn from you, Jemar and your colleagues. So let him march sometime; let him have his prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; understand why he must have sit- ins and freedom rides. Recognizing this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand public demonstrations. Dr. King appeals to authority to assert and claim his credibility. He said that God had created all races of one blood and, thus, all men of all races were brothers. 2 Garcia Martin Luther King Jr.'s letter from Birmingham prison to the clergy of the south, in particular the city of Birmingham, was in itself a great literary item, talking about the awful truth about southern segregation. We often talk about Dr. King’s vision of racial equality. concepts. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest. We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our God-given and constitutional rights. So I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court because it is morally right, and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong. But can this assertion be logically made? You may well ask, “Why direct action, why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? We must come to see, as federal courts have consistently affirmed, that it is immoral to urge an individual to withdraw his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest precipitates violence. Let me give another explanation. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks before submitting to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. They will be the James Merediths, courageously and with a majestic sense of purpose facing jeering and hostile mobs and the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. Local churches should reflect the unity of the coming kingdom of God by being places where people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, political affiliations, income levels, and even languages come together in unity. Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because His unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to His will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. It was during that period that the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. AUDIO: Director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center Lecia Brooks reads Martin Luther KIng Jr's Letter From Birmingham Jail' as part of a wordwide celebration of the of the 50th anniversary of it's writing. “Letter From Birmingham Jail” was a thunderbolt in the battle for racial justice, and it remains a powerful wake-up call to this day. While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. Bryan Loritts has assembled a wonderful group of ethnically diverse church leaders to respond to the now famous letter from the pen of Martin Luther King Jr., which, though written from a Birmingham jail in 1963, continues to appear timeless and relevant today. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly worked and preached against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth. We were not unmindful of the difficulties involved. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say “wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger” and your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodyness”—then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. Things are different now. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in this nation. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. Letter from Birmingham Jail. It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. Martin Luther King Jr. was a social activist who lead the Civil Rights Movement from mid-1950's to late 1960's. A lot has changed in the past 57 years, but the need for the church to lead in the fight for racial reconciliation is as pressing as ever. I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every Southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. I’m grateful to God that, through the Negro church, the dimension of nonviolence entered our struggle. On the basis of them, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. It was written for white "moderates" like you. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. ), but to a Higher Law. He said that God had created all races of one blood and, thus, all men of all races were brothers. A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. But before closing I am impelled to mention one other point in your statement that troubled me profoundly. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth of time. This is why, at the Summit, we’ve established the Commission for Oneness and Reconciliation (CORE). Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.” But they went on with the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven” and had to obey God rather than man. But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. Martin Luther King Jr's restrictions in the letter is that he's not an outsider because he's a U.S. resident and is organically connected to the town of Birmingham. It was his response to a public statement of concern and caution issued by eight white religious leaders of the South. Besides, he speculates a bright future for the great nation filled with love and brotherhood. Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical delvings precipitated the misguided popular mind to make him drink the hemlock? I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand this past Sunday in welcoming Negroes to your Baptist Church worship service on a nonsegregated basis. Greear! “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”, Was not Martin Luther an extremist? So segregation is not only politically, economically, and sociologically unsound, but it is morally wrong and sinful. The letter gives me the motivation to want to make a change for my community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Knowing that a strong economic withdrawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this was the best time to bring pressure on the merchants for the needed changes. He has to get them out. What connections can you make between this letter and modern times? In both works ‘I Have a Dream’ and ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’, Martin Luther King adopted some of the rhetorical strategies and techniques of repetition to clarify the importance, parallelism, antithesis, similes, metaphors, and allusions. Letter From birmingham Jail. I’ll end with this excerpt from King’s famous letter: I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, [but] as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Actually, time is neutral. Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?” —Martin Luther King, Jr. I believe that people with authority in this generation are making King’s fight for justice pointless. So I have not said to my people, “Get rid of your discontent.” But I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled through the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. I started thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. I do not say that as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. Dr. King’s “Letter” expounded a vision of the world rooted in a Christian worldview, which is why it feels so powerful. When we discovered that Mr. Conner was in the runoff, we decided again to postpone action so that the demonstration could not be used to cloud the issues. As the head of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King played a pivotal role in ending legal segregation in the United States. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Springhill College several years ago. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love? I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. God has declared that multi-racial unity is his intention for the church, and he has given his Spirit with the promise that he. Stream Dr. Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail by williejackson from desktop or your mobile device. Let me rush on to mention my other disappointment. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, “Those are social issues which the gospel has nothing to do with,” and I have watched so many churches commit themselves to a completely otherworldly religion which made a strange distinction between bodies and souls, the sacred and the secular. I wish you had commended the Negro demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer, and their amazing discipline in the midst of the most inhuman provocation. Answered by Aslan on 6/1/2017 11:41 PM Unfortunately, King's dream of racial equality still has not … Despite the harsh treatment he and his fellow protestors had received, King continued his work in Birmingham. He establishes the ways in which blacks have been degraded and dehumanized by segregation and racism in general, and then combats that dehumanization with several personal notes on the effects of racism on the African American psyche. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. There can be no gainsaying of the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. This kind of multi-racial unity was one of the distinguishing marks of gospel proclamation in the ancient world, and today’s world needs to see it more than ever. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for the best in the American dream and the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage. I would agree with St. Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all.”. The Declaration of Independence and "Letter from Birmingham City Jail" were both written with the ideas of justice and freedom in mind during two … Justice too long delayed is justice denied. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s often vocal sanction of things as they are. In this sense they have been publicly “nonviolent.” But for what purpose? It saddens me that today African Americans are still facing the same injustice blacks were facing 50 years ago. I’m sorry that I can’t join you in your praise for the police department. They sat in with us at lunch counters and rode in with us on the freedom rides. The hope I see in Mr. Boutwell is that he will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. I know that this podcast, and the Witness in general, is made for Black audiences. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.”, And Abraham Lincoln? One may well ask, “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. But “Letter From Birmingham Jail” reminds us that this wasn’t, Dr. King called for an end to racial injustice, not by appealing to current laws or even to the will of the majority (both of those, at the time, were. On CORE’s website, you’ll find some excellent resources that capture our vision—no, God’s vision—for racial reconciliation. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. But the political leaders consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation. From his jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, the Rev. There was a time when the church was very powerful. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. But “Letter From Birmingham Jail” reminds us that this wasn’t Dr. King’s vision. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. While it may be aloof to directly compare Lincoln’s idea of God to Dr. King himself, the similarities are apparent. You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. In these negotiating sessions certain promises were made by the merchants, such as the promise to remove the humiliating racial signs from the stores. Martin Luther King Jr. person. © 2021 J.D. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. https://jdgreear.com/dr-kings-letter-from-birmingham-jail-still-speaks-to-us-today Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Stay up-to-date on announcements, new resources, and exciting news from J.D. I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need not follow the do-nothingism of the complacent or the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. ), but to a Higher Law. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. For Dr. King, what was ultimate, what he appealed to in the face of political opposition, and even a majority that opposed him, was the justice of God. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. Letter From a Birmingham City Jail January 18, 2021 by Gettysburg Connection In honor of the 26th Annual MLK Day, Gettysburg Connection is today … How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble-rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who are working through the channels of nonviolent direct action and refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes, out of frustration and despair, will seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies, a development that will lead inevitably to a frightening racial nightmare. I’m afraid that it is much too long to take your precious time. Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”, Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel? A great deal has been and will be written about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by others far more qualified; however, I am honored to have been asked to share a few thoughts in his honor of his birth, his memory, and above all, his great legacy. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleakness of corroding despair. Letter from Birmingham City Jail Latest answer posted November 12, 2019 at 1:24:39 PM Provide three examples of allusions that King uses to support his reasoning. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. “The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Dr. King’s “Letter” expounded a vision of the world rooted in a Christian worldview, which is why it feels so powerful. 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