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Theresa Rezkalla
Mr. Carver
16 January 2018
Letter From Birmingham Jail
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was a
Baptist minister and a civil rights activist. He had a huge impact on race relations in the United
States of America. Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to end the racism issue that was going in
the south during the 1950s. Mr. King was also trying to create the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and
the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These acts helped African Americans to have the right to vote and
to have equal power like white people. Mr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, as well
as other honors. Mr. King was murdered on April 4, 1968. He was one of the amazing leaders
that will always be remembered.
Even though Martin Luther King Jr. was doing the right thing and standing up for what
he believed in, he got arrested 30 times. Mr. King believed that African Americans should not
have to wait any longer for their rights as humans, so Mr. King and the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference (SCLC) decided to go and fight for themselves and talk to the civil right
leaders and lecture them about race related issues. Mr. King did not want any violence in his
movement, he just simply wanted to talk. To Mr. King violence was never the answer. Mr. King
also told his people that violence will never be their way out of this.
In the Early 1960s, a group of African Americans began something called the “sit-in”
movement in North Carolina. Which meant that if there were at a restaurant or on a bus, they
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would sit wherever they want, because during this time African Americans were allowed to sit in
specific spots. If someone would ask them to sit in that seat or do this or do that, they would sit
still in their seat and they would not move. Mr. King and the SCLC had a conference with those
African American students, and Mr. king encouraged them to continue what they were doing.
This movement succeeded and it expand in 27 southern cities. Mr. King and 75 of his students
went to a diner and were sitting at a table, they were asked to move to the lunch counter, but they
refused. After that Mr. King and 36 others were arrested because of what they did. They were
eventually released. But, that was one of the many ways of how Mr. King and a lot of African
Americans were arrested. The “sit-in” movement was not violent, it was just a way for African
Americans to show that they should have the right as white people. That was one of they ways
that Mr. King used to stand up of his people’s and his rights without violence.
On April 12, 1963, Mr. King was arrested by a police commissioner Eugene “Bull”
Connor. Mr. King was arrested because he was doing a nonviolent protest to demonstrate
segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. Mr. King was placed in Birmingham City Jail for 11 days.
During his time in jail, he wrote his famous “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” He wrote this letter
on the edges of a newspaper. Mr. King wrote this letter to respond to eight clergymen, who said
to Mr. King that what he did was unwise and untimely. They also asked Mr. King for the black
population to end the demonstrations. Mr. King responded by basically saying that all men are
created equal, and the constitution states that in great detail. Every man should have the right to
vote no matter what their race, gender, or ethnicity is. Mr. King also says in his letter that the
African Americans have been waiting so long for the full rights as citizens.
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Mr. King and more than 200,000 people, took a historic March on August 28, 1963 in
Washington. That is when Mr. King made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, saying that
someday all men are created equal. Mr. King said, “I have a dream that my four children will one
day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of
their character.” Mr. King pushed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which meant that every African
American has the right to vote and have the rights as white men.
One of Mr. King’s non-violent movement was civil rights marching. There was two
remarkable marches that were done by African Americans, they would cross from Selma to
Montgomery, crossing the Edmond Pettus Bridge. The first march took place on March 7, 1965,
a couple hundred African Americans were marching, but it turned out really badly. Policemen
attacked them with nightsticks and tear gas. They kept beating all of them, from men to women
to children. It was truly a horrific scene. This particular event was later known as
“Bloody Sunday.” There was about to be a second march, but it was cancelled due a restraining
order from the president. Mr. King did not like the second march to be cancelled. So, Mr. King
decided that he would plan a third march. On March 9, 1965, over 2,500 marchers, including
black and white, walked the bridge. Halfway through the bridge, Mr. King stopped, kneeled
down on his knees to pray, and everybody did the same, and then he turned around and walked
back to Selma. Mr. King did this because he knew that violence was not the answer and he did
not want anymore people getting hurt.
When Martin Luther King Jr. was in Birmingham Jail, he wrote a letter for his fellow
clergymen who thought that what he did was “unwise and untimely.” “While confined here in the
Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities ‘unwise
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and untimely.'”— Martin Luther King Jr. Mr. King knew that he was not going to live for long
and he did not know if he is going to die in this jail or not, because he kept getting threats phone
calls about people killing him and such. So, he decided to write this letter not for only the
clergymen, but also for his people who were on his side. In this letter he shared his thoughts
opinion about everything. He would also tell his people what to do and what not to do. I think
that this letter is very powerful and that it might move anybody, because it truly states some good
and bad things that have happened in the past, that we can just go wow.
Mr. King also mentioned something about nonviolent direct action and how it will create
tension in the community. “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such
tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the
issue.”—Martin Luther King Jr. The Civil Rights movement was a huge deal for Mr. King,
because it was their only way out of this mess. Mr. King’s nonviolent movement is an action to a
society change. It means that the issue can no longer be ignored. “But I must confess that I am
not afraid of the word ‘tension’.”—Martin Luther King Jr. Mr. King represents tension as a way
of growth. Mr. King gave an example about Socrates and how they used tension to get people to
stop believing in myth and half truths. Mr. King wants tension because he wants people to wake
up and get out of the dark and look into the light and realize that racism is making the world go
down. You might think that negotiation is a better idea, you are absolutely right. Mr. King is
trying to open the door of negotiation through his nonviolent direct action. That is the whole
purpose of why Mr. King decided to have a nonviolent direct action. The Civil Rights movement
will “bring to the surface” a “hidden tension that is already alive.” This means that if president
Johnson signed this act, it would make life a lot easier for the African Americans and that it is
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going to solve so many problems that are already alive. People will than realize how the world
will be very different with the Civil Rights movement. Historians believe that “I Have a Dream”
speech by Martin Luther king Jr. helped passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting
Rights of 1965. The Civil Rights movement helped that black, but it was also a movement that
helped women, students, gays and lesbians, the elderly, and many more. The Civil Rights
movement helped many people with their rights. And that what the United States Constitution
had said, that all men are created equal, and that everybody should have the right to vote no
matter of their race, gender, or ethnicity.
One of the most important things that stands out in Mr. King’s letter from Birmingham
Jail is just and unjust. It is a huge topic that it will impact America as a whole. “I would agree
with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.'”—Martin Luther King Jr. Some of us
might agree with what Mr. King said about just and unjust. “A just law is a man code that shares
the moral law or the law of God. A just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow
and that it is willing to follow itself.”—Martin Luther King Jr. Mr. King explains that just laws
uplift human personality. Mr. King believes in a just law and that it is good for the nation. On the
other hand and unjust law is sinful and wrong. “An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony
with the moral law. 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.”—Martin Luther King Jr. An unjust
law is when you basically have to obey a law, but you are fully against it. A just law is when you
obey what you voted for and you are not against it. Mr. King makes that very clearly in his letter,
and how he believes that everybody should follow the just laws.
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In the 1960s and even the 1950s, America was a very racist nation. So, the media told the
rest of the world how racist America is, and the the Civil Rights movement might help with that.
The media helped the Civil Rights movement to succeed. I believe that without the media, the
Civil Rights movement would have not even excited and there would be still be racism in
America today. The media really showed the nation attention from the south. The media really
made some people change their minds about African American. Just watching television and
seeing people getting beat up repeatedly for no reason at all, they were just simply standing up
for their rights. The media really helped some white people to come and join the Civil Rights
movement. When Mr. King went marching from Selma to Montgomery with over 200,000
people on his side, because of the media. As seen in the movie Selma, Mr. King announced that
he was going to walk from over the bridge and that he needed some people on his side and help
him march through the soldiers. A lot of people including white people came to join him on his
amazing march. The media today still mentions the Civil Rights movement and how it affected
the world today. We always hear about white cops shooting African Americans for no reason at
all. That is where the media comes in and we remember the Civil Rights movements and that that
cop should be punished. For example, on New Years’ Day of 2009, Oscar Grant, a very poor and
innocent African American male, was shot and killed by a white cop because he did not do
anything. Soon, the cop that shot him went to jail and was got a death sentence. If that would
have happened in the 1960s, no one would have cared. The media truly played a huge role in the
past and it still will play a huge role and represents the Civil Rights movement.
This letter that was written by Martin Luther King Jr. is truly a powerful and a moving
letter. The letter really show who Mr. King was and what was his thoughts were about racism
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and the Civil Rights movement. This letter made me really have a different point of view of the
1960s. It really showed me how people lived in the those days, and what they suffered through
just to have equal rights. There was a really powerful quote that I read over and over again
because it was very good and very true and very realistic. “Was not Jesus an extremist for love:
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them
which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let
justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an
extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not
Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John
Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.”
And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas
Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .”—Martin
Luther King Jr. This paragraph really summed up for me on how I should see the world. These
all amazing and wonderful people that Mr. King mentioned: every word they said was very true
and moving. This paragraph also showed me that racism has been going on for a really long time
and not just the 1960s. I love how Mr. King really wrote this letter as a message from God to
him. He truly believed and followed God overstep of the way. The amazing move Selma really
showed that in that character of Mr. King. Martin Luther King Jr. was truly an amazing man and
he will never be forgotten on how he stood up for he believed in.
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Work Cited
Blanchet, D. “MLK’s Arrest in Birmingham – Letter From Birmingham City Jail – “Children’s
Crusade” – Birmingham, AL – 1963.” Civrights -. Wikispaces, n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2018.
“Civil Rights Movement.” History.com. Ed. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty. A Television
Networks, 2009. Web. 13 Jan. 2018.
DuVernay, A. (Director). (2014). Selma Motion picture.
Rothman, Lily. “Why MLK Was Jailed in Birmingham.” Time. Time, 16 Apr. 2015. Web. 14 Jan.
Unknown, Unknown. “Martin Luther King Jr. Biography.” Bio.com. A Networks Television,
n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2018.
Unknown, Unknown. “The American Civil Rights Movement: The Media.” American Civil
Rights Movement : The Media. Historical Boys’ Clothing, 9 Oct. 2003. Web. 14 Jan.

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