Thoughts on Letter From Birmingham Jail

By Russ

When King was participating in the bus boycotts in Alabama, and they were running out of persons to be arrested, King made the decision to go and take part in the sit in and get arrested. He was held in jail for a number of days. While in jail he wrote one of the countries most important documents, Letter from Birmingham Jail. I feel that this work along with the federalist papers, the bill of rights, the declaration of Independence are required reading for all citizens. was written in response to criticism King had received from white clergymen in Alabama. they asked him to not march, to not demonstrate, to go slow. below is kings response. As I read Letter from Birmingham Jail and King’s other writings I am always struck by the reality of his faith. I am not surprised that the most successful civil rights leader in American history was a Christian.

Perhaps 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 policeman curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your 20 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 eyes when she’s told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking, “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,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and 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 quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears an outer resentments; when you are for ever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” — then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

MLK, Letter from Birmingham Jail

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  1. January 18th, 2010
  2. January 18th, 2010

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