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Response to “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”

Essay Topic: ,

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in response to his fellow white clergymen who criticized his actions that landed him in jail. He used Biblical examples to show that his nonviolent actions were necessary for African Americans to move forward in this country.

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This letter was mainly directed to those religious leaders who have the power to do something about segregation but don’t. The purpose is to hopefully get the backup from powerful religious leaders and end segregation.

He communicates this message very effectively to these men from his quotes from Saint Paul and King Solomon which is preached within the churches of these religious leaders. He also justifies his nonviolent action by comparing it to “just” and “unjust” laws with one example of Hitler ( “We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal. ” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. ”)

King claims there is no better timing for something that has been at conflict for 340 years and that there was no wrongdoing during this “sit-in. ” He says in confidence, “ We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. Before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson scratched across the pages of history the majestic word of the Declaration of Independence, we were here …

If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands … ” Martin Luther King Jr. is asking for the help of the clergymen so they can move forward with Civil Rights. Mr. King scolded the clergymen saying,“The early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed.

In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. ” He was urging them to stand up for what they knew and believed was right just as the early Christian church had done in the face of execution. Martin Luther King Jr. used their belief to persuade them to see the right path. Martin Luther King Jr. ‘s major audience is the clergymen he is writing to. These men possess the power to change people’s minds and yet do not even try.

King gives such overwhelming emotion when he compares the situation in Birmingham with Biblical situations such as this (Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. 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. 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.

) Using this quote he tried to explain once again that sometimes to do what is right you have to take chances that may seem wrong and may be labeled as wrong. He is very professional and polite at the beginning which helps the audience to really listen to what he has to say. When he really gets his point through is when he gradually gets firmer and firmer throughout the text yet at the same time still being polite. King portrays himself as one of the clergymen, but one that has to overcome the many obstacles of the average African American.

He acts as a friend and yet in the middle of the letter he portrays the religious leaders as an enemy that he hopes will reconsider their position on Civil Rights. Important Quotes: “So I have tried to make it clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. ” This quote means that it is wrong to use forceful methods and violence to get a good ending but it is equally as bad to sit by and watch, doing nothing, while dissolute actions are being made.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. ” Martin Luther King’s quote means that even if you aren’t directly affected by the current situation it will somehow come back to include you so the best way to handle injustice is to get rid of it right away and not let it affect anyone.

… it is immoral to urge an individual to withdraw his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest precipitates violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. This quote discourages the clergymens’ decision to sit back and not do anything about the growing issue of slavery in Birmingham. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was urging them to change the hearts of the people and communities they preached to. Mr. King believed that society must protect the African Americans affected by racism and punish the racist.

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