Letter from a Birmingham Jail is a book in the form of a letter, which Martin Luther King Jr wrote at a time when confined in a jail cell situated in Birmingham, Alabama. The letter leaked out from the cell to reporters and different media as some were written on toilet papers.1 At the time of writing this letter, there were many social injustices taking place in Birmingham against blacks, and they prompted Martin Luther King Jr to write. Because of such injustices, many local people renamed the city and started calling it, “Bombingham.” Martin Luther King Jr, who is the author of the book, was arrested as he took part in a peaceful anti-segregation protest against the injustices in the city.2 Those who arrested him claimed that he participated in a protest without a permit and was illegal. The arrest of Martin Luther king Jr made religious leaders write a letter titled, “A call for Unity” where they condemned and criticized his actions. Therefore, Letter from a Birmingham Jail was a response to the clergy who called themselves, “The White Church and its Leadership.3
Highlight of major themes
The book was written at a time when racial segregation and other forms of injustices were taking place in the American society. Birmingham has been just one location among many where injustices were practiced. The author of the book happens to be a victim of racial segregation because he was a black American, who was not entitled to full rights in America. Therefore, the book based on events that were taking place in Birmingham especially those that affected the black’s community.
Additionally, the book talks of discrimination that took place in Birmingham. For instance, the clergy whom the author had a good relationship with turned against him because he initiated a protest against the regime. The black community underwent discrimination from job postings, education, and medical care among other benefits. The book talked about injustices, which he stood against making him organize a protest leading to his arrest. Similarly, his fellow clergy discriminated him because he championed the rights of the blacks, and this did not work to meet the interest of the white men who were the majority.
Why the work is significant to the period covered in the course?
The book, Letter from a Birmingham Jail is important to the period covered in the process because it highlights the challenges and problems the minority living in America faced. Throughout the book, the suffering and problems the blacks faced are evident. The increased pressure on the government to initiate institutional reforms to allow equality and end racial segregation also marks the period. Many blacks were discriminated and denied essential services, making them protest through civil society. Similarly, the work is significant because it mentions some of the people who fought for change many blacks enjoy today. For instance, it mentions Martin Luther King Jr as one of the people who stood out to fight for the rights of minority and opposed to the regime.
Martin Luther King. Letter from a Birmingham Jail. San Francisco: Harper, 1994