Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue. You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. It is from this document that the rallying cry of “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere“ was offered to the world. right to fight injustice anywhere in the United States. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Moral argument: Parents with children can feel the pain... Continue reading this essay Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”. How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are. that it once had. In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. a distinction between just and unjust laws (all of this is deductive So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. All papers are for research and reference purposes only! An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. In 4. Church All Rights Reserved. ineffectual and irrelevant. idea that he is an outside agitator that doesn’t belong in, Refutes l am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great-grandson of preachers. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Unjust I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. While confined here in the Birmingham City Jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. Letter From Birmingham Jail Analysis. But, oh! 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, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”. In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. Fifty Two years ago, Martin Luther King wrote this landmark missive to defend the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism. laws are unjust, a. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. Even though Can’t wait any longer (supports with list of We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. This is difference made legal. 1. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handing the demonstrators. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. integration of schools) while breaking others (segregation laws) by making For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. King praise to the “true heroes”—the civil rights demonstrators. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. One way that King supports his thesis is by using appeals to emotion. Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. This amazing and thought-provoking piece should be read in its entirety and offers up the thesis that all people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws. b. I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. injustices that arouse righteous anger in audience—pathos), 1. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. 3. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. Small in number, they were big in commitment. Modern They are still too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust. This is certainly a legitimate concern. idea that he causes violence by using causes argument and analogy of We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. That would lead to anarchy. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. just in letter but unjust when applied to violate constitution). There will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. leaders should see the justice in his movement, but they fail to do so and thus The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. Who is their God? Accommodation Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Dr. King argues that all men must, no matter their lot in life, take direct action rather than waiting potentially forever for justice to come through the courts. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely otherworldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. natural consequence will be violence. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns: and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom far beyond my own hometown. can be just on paper, but applied unjustly (Parade law that put him in jail is As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. MegaEssays, "Letter From Birmingham Jail Analysis.,", (accessed November 05, 2020).