The Letter from Birmingham Jail is an open letter written by Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 16, 1963. The letter advocates peaceful opposition to racism as a tactic. The letter was extensively circulated and became a key document in the early 1960s American Civil Rights Movement.
In it, Dr. King argues that nonviolent resistance is the only way forward for achieving civil rights in Alabama during a time when other efforts had failed. He also questions why nonviolence has been given up by some in the civil rights movement.
King claims that he is not advocating violence, but says that if forced to choose between abandoning their right to protest or using force, then protesters should use nonviolence. He goes on to say that such a decision should be made by each individual person because it is they who will be affected by it.
This argument mirrors King's earlier speech "Why Jesus Calls For Nonviolent Resistance", given at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) headquarters in Atlanta on March 31, 1962. In this earlier speech, he asserts that nonviolence is the most effective weapon against racial injustice.
However, King later changes his position and allows his minister James Bevel to lead a campaign of violent protests at black-only schools in Birmingham, Alabama, in order to show its effectiveness.
The "Letter From Birmingham Jail" was written by Martin Luther King Jr. in the year 1963. It is an open letter where he mentions that it is the moral responsibility of people to take direct actions if justice is not being served and to break unjust laws. Laws are mere sentences made by people. They can be changed or ignored at any time.
This letter was written after 4 other black men were killed by police officers in Birmingham, Alabama. These men had been arrested without cause for just walking down the street. When Martin Luther King heard about this, he knew that these men did not deserve to die and that there had to be better ways to deal with crime than by killing innocent people. So, he wrote this letter asking people to support his efforts so that more could be done about racial injustice.
King's letter started off by saying that it was wrong for him to get involved in political matters because he was a Christian and Christians should not try to influence government decisions. He also said that he was a human being first and acted according to his beliefs at all times. Finally, he closed the letter by asking people to stay strong and not give up despite how difficult things might seem.
His letter is considered one of the most important documents in history because it showed great leadership qualities from someone who was not trained to lead. It also inspired many people to fight for their rights which led to changes being made into law.
By April 12, King and many of his fellow activists were in prison. While imprisoned, King authored an open letter, now known as his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," a full-throated defense of the Birmingham protest campaign that is now recognized as one of the civil rights movement's most important documents. The letter was written to show support for other blacks who had been arrested during the protests against segregation. It also criticized local authorities for their handling of the situation.
King wrote that he was shocked by the violence that had erupted at some of the demonstrations, noting that it differed greatly from how the movement had begun three years earlier with non-violent protests. He went on to say that such actions would never change white attitudes toward black people, but rather only harden those attitudes even more. Finally, he argued that nonviolent action was the only way forward because "injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere."
Those words still hold true today. Although racial inequality continues to be a problem in this country, we must remain committed to non-violence because only through peaceable resistance can we hope to achieve justice.
MLK Jr. was released from prison on April 14, 1968. Less than a year later, on April 4, 1969, he was assassinated while standing on a balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.