Martin Luther King Jr – Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Why read Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”? Why read a letter that was written decades ago in a cold prison cell by a man who’s been dead nearly forty years? The answer is simple. Dr King wrote this eloquent and profound letter while being held in a Birmingham city jail. In this letter responding to criticism from his fellow churchmen, Dr. King tells the world why he conducted his business the way he did. His fellow churchmen called his activities “reckless and untimely” and questioned his methods and motives.

The purpose of this letter was to explain to people why he chose to implement his direct, nonviolent protests at this time and why he could not wait. King says, “We have waited over 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are advancing at jet-like speed toward political independence, but we are crawling at horse and buggy pace toward a cup of coffee at the lunch counter. Dr. King believed his people had waited long enough for justice and equality. Dr. King has never been idle and has not waited for justice to be done to him. He was bossy and impatient when it came to the freedom of his people.

Today we can learn much from the ideals presented by Dr. King and from his letter from a Birmingham prison. We too must be assertive and impatient with our wants and needs. Obtaining justice should be part of every individual’s life for generations to come. Injustices are still present in the world today and will continue to be present as long as human beings inhabit this earth. The injustices that Dr. King encountered during his life are still present in this country today. In Dr. King’s time, the injustices of segregation and racism were much more evident.

The oppressor was as clear as black on white. The injustices we face as a people today in this country are much more nebulous and subtle, but they exist. Segregation and racism are perhaps as alive today as they were in Dr. King’s day. It may even be present in your church, in your school or around your community without you even realizing it. This is why it is important for us to study the life and work of Dr. King. The fact that injustices are still present today should motivate each of us to transform the status quo. It is our responsibility today to carry on the legacy of Dr. King so that we can continue to progress in a way that will lead to global progress and the betterment of our world.

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