Letter From Birmingham Jail Short Summary
Martin Luther King, Jr writes a letter from Birmingham Jail. It is a response to the critics of the non-violent protests which took place in Birmingham, Alabama in the year 1963 (April). In this letter, Martin Luther King offers a response to a specific statement that was published in a local newspaper. The newspaper claimed the protests were unwise and ill-timed. As a result, the leaders of the protests were condemned.
In the letter, the author begins by referring to the by clergy as people that possess genuine goodwill. He acknowledges their concern as sincere. In response to those who refer to him as an outsider, he informs them that they had an invitation to Birmingham as part of the Christian leadership. Besides, fighting for civil rights is their responsibility. He likens himself to the early Christians such as Apostle Paul who was there to help people at their hour of need.
Besides, the author takes time to respond to those who claim that civil rights should be fought in the court rather than in the streets. His explanation is that only actions can they persuade the white majority to deal with the racism issues as opposed to dialogue. King writes this letter from prison and insists that the laws being broken by the protestors are unjust.
Apart from responding to the criticisms from the clergy, King passes judgment through the letter. In his view, he is disappointed by the white moderates. Their silence is worse than the harm by those who promote the racial agenda. Worse still these moderates are opposed to the direct action. In King’s words, it is better to be taken as an extremist than watch as others perpetuate their acts of racial injustice.
He also criticizes the members of the white church who support the status quo. His challenge is that the church should offer more in the fight against injustice. The contemporary church, in his opinion, has lost track of what early Christians stood for. They no longer inspire people to be better. It is the lack of adequate support from the church that has led to an increase in the cases of racial segregation. King, in the end, expresses optimism and belief that the Americans of African origin will eventually be free from racial discrimination just like they have been fighting for this freedom. This marks the end of the letter.