1963 April 16

Martin Luther King, Jr., Writes Famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

 

Rev. Martin Luther King was arrested during the demonstrations in Birmingham that began on April 3, 1963, which eventually provoked President Kennedy to propose a federal civil rights bill, on June 11, 1963. While in jail, Rev. King wrote what became a famous letter in reply to eight white Birmingham ministers who had criticized his Birmingham campaign in a letter entitled, “A Call for Unity.” Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is widely considered to be one of the most historic documents of the civil rights movement.

Dr. King to the eight ministers: “You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.”

Read the entire letter: http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

Learn more about the Birmingham campaign: Diane McWhorter, Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution (2001)

Read: Jonathan Bass, Blessed are the Peacemakers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (2001)

Visit the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DC: http://www.nps.gov/mlkm/index.htm

Read the monumental Three-Volume biography of Dr. King by Taylor Branch: Parting the Waters (1988); Pillar of Fire (1998); At Canaan’s Edge (2006)

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