Last Updated 06 Jan 2023

Letter From Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr’s Work of Art

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Doctor King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail“ is a beautifully executed and well-supported essay written under less than conducive circumstances. The incredible foresight, determination, and self-discipline King embodied are evident in this letter, Early on in the letter, he writes, “Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self- purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves. ‘Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” King wants the readers to know that black people are willing to stand up for what they believe in without stooping to methods that are beneath them. The willingness of Dr, King and the people who protest with him to endure disrespect, abuse, and imprisonment for their values belies an immense strength of character.

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For most, jail is a place of despair, a place to give up, and hopefully, start anew. For Dr, King it represents only a sharp turn on the road to justice. It is a place to regroup and continue, but giving up is never an option for him, nor is slowing to a stop, “What else can one do,” he asks, “when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?” He does just that, composing a well-structured plea, calling the white moderates to action. His supporting anecdotes, both biblical and based in his own reality, are enough to bring tears to readers’ eyes. Reading this piece presently, it is impossible not to empathize with the plight of black people. It is a wonder, in the wake of World War II, that so many otherwise decent people failed to do so.

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