The letter from Birmingham Jail, which was also referred to as the Negro Is your Brother, is an open letter that was written on April sixteen 1963 by an American civil rights leader, Martin Luther King junior. Dr. King drafted the letter when he was in the city jail in Birmingham, Alabama. He was confined in the city jail after being arrested for his participation in the Birmingham campaign.

Dr. King organized a non-violent protest that was conducted by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and southern Christian leadership conference of Martin Luther King against ethnic segregation that was being practiced by Birmingham city government and downtown retailers (Reichert 2007).

Martin Luther king junior together with other blacks, marched into downtown Birmingham to demonstrate the prevailing segregation laws. All were arrested. This caused the white clergymen of southern town to create a letter appealing to the black people to stop their protests. The letter appeared in the Birmingham Newspaper. Martin Luther king later drafted the letter that would mark the turning point of civil rights movement and give enduring inspiration to the fight for racial equality. 

Martin Luther King letter was addressed to white Alabama clergymen. The letter of martin Luther king was a response to a statement that was made by eight white Alabama clergymen on April twelve 1963. The title of the letter was a call For Unity. The clergy men accepted that social injustices prevail but argued that the fight against racial segregation should be battled in the courts, not in the streets (Reichert 2007).

Dr. responded that minus nonviolent forceful direct measures such as his, factual civil rights could never be attained. As king puts it, the term wait has almost the same meaning as never. He stated that civil disobedience was not only justified in the face of unfair laws, but also a person has a moral responsibility to disrespect unjust laws (Bordas 2007).

Wide excerpts from the letter were published, minus the permission of Martin Luther King, on May nineteen 1963 in the New York Post Sunday Magazine. The first letter was published as a letter from Birmingham Jail in June, 1963 as a matter of liberation.  Shortly there after, it was reprinted in the Atlantic monthly. The letter comprises the famous statement that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Martin Luther King quoted that justice too long delayed is justice denied.

How Dr. King defended himself

In the letter that that Martin Luther king wrote to the eight clergymen, he disapproved the statement of white clergymen with an almost appeasing tone that gave them some praise.  Dr. King noted that he was addressing them in part because the criticism of clergymen was sincere and added that they were men of real good will. However, in the paragraphs that follow, King changes to a language that can depart no doubt about the firm commitment that he introduced to the battle against racial injustice (Bordas 2007).

The letter of Martin Luther King is a strong collection of statements that explains why he was in Birmingham, the unfair laws that persecuted the black individuals in Alabama and the sense of drive that civil rights movement was meeting at the time. King's letter is a document full of fine thought-out arguments that are logical past contention and poetic at the similar time. The size of Martin Luther King's wisdom becomes particularly clear through his weird capability to identify the truth through the application of very short statements.

One of the criticisms that were outlined by the clergymen against Martin Luther King was that Dr. King and his supports were outside protesters, who were stirring up problem in the region that was not of their concern. Martin Luther king responded to this statement in several ways, but his shortest denial is the strongest of them all.

Dr. King argued that he could not stay unoccupied in Atlanta and be unconcerned by incidents in Birmingham since injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Given the enhanced facility that we currently have for communications in all over the world, the assertion of Martin Luther King about the permeating nature of injustice holds more weight currently than as it did in 1963 (Schumaker, 2010).

Throughout the letter, Martin Luther King efficiently utilizes historic information and references to defend his movement. At a particular point he was criticized the eight white clergymen for his readiness to break laws that restricted his protesting actions and yet, at the same period, he supported that des-segregation laws should be respected. To respond to that accuse he illustrated two parallels from the past. 

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Martin Luther King reminded the white clergymen that all the horrors of the holocaust were lawful according to Hitler, and on the other hand, the activities of Hungarian freedom fighters who attempted to break the soviet occupation's yoke in 1956, were unlawful by the standards placed in Moscow. Though Martin Luther king made other arguments in his letter, he gets right to the bottom of the matter with a very short assertion. He quotes St. Augustine assertion, which states that unjust law is not a law at all.  

Martin Luther King argued that people who are oppressed cannot remain demoralized forever. The desire for freedom and equality will finally turn to action. Development towards the freedom's goal instills a sense of direction, pride and dignity that provides moral power to those who support the cause. In his letter he quotes a seventy two old woman who added it up in a beautiful and profound assertion. When the woman was asked how she felt after she and her people declined to ride on segregated busses, she replied that her feet were tied but her soul was rested (Schmidtz 2010).  

Thinkers who influenced Martin Luther King

Schmidtz, 2010, argues that Martin Luther king was influenced by thinkers such as a Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, St. Thomas Aquinas and Mahatma Gandhi. According to Gandhi nonviolence in the factual sense is not a tactic that a person employs simply because it is a measure at the moment. Nonviolence is eventually a means of life people live by because of the pure morality of its claim.  Gandhi added that the willingness to apply nonviolence as a method is a step forward. A person who goes this far is more probable to implement nonviolence later as a means of life.

The second thinker, Martin Buber, a Jewish philosopher, suggested that segregation is not only economically, socially and politically unsound but also it is morally wrong and evil. St. Thomas on the other hand suggested that the law that is unjust is a human law that is rooted in natural law and eternal law. According to him any law that raises human personality is just and any law that disgraces human personality is unjust. He added that all segregation laws are unjust since segregation deforms the soul and destroys the personality. It provides the segregator a wrong sense of superiority and the segregated a wrong sense of inferiority (Schmidtz & Brennan, 2010).     

Conservatism, liberalism and declaration of independence

In the letter from Birmingham jail, the nature of law from conservatism and liberalism and declaration of independence are similar. The letter deliberately appeals to both prophetic religious desires that are part of Judeo-Christian tradition, they stresses liberation of the oppressed, as demonstrated in the exodus incident and the successive ethos of care for the orphan, widow and the stranger and the revolutionary arguments for independent rights and liberties developed (Schumaker 2010).                   .

Towards the end of the letter Martin Luther king makes this similarity explicit. In his letter, Martin Luther King suggest that one day the south will understand that when the disowned children of God sat down at lunch counters, they are in authenticity standing up for what is much better in the American dream and for the most holy values in Judeo-Christian heritage, thereby introducing nation back to the enormous wells of democracy that were dug deep by the ancestors in their creation of constitution and declaration of independence. Martin Luther king competently weaves the two moral sources into a rhetorically strong and reasonably compelling argument for peaceful civil defiance in the service of defeating segregation and racism (Schumaker 2010).                   

How Christianity influenced the civil rights movement

Based on the King's letter from Birmingham city jail, the civil rights movement in United States of America has been positively influenced. According to the letter, the Christians promoted nonviolence strategies. This positively influenced the civil rights movement since movement has been adopting nonviolence strategies in organizing their protest (Bordas, 2007).


It is clear that through out Dr. King's letter to the white clergymen, he employs many literary tools that develops a strong tone to complement his powerful opinions. He therefore used comparisons to assist the clergymen and other readers to not only understand the historical reasons why segregation is not good, but also the negative emotional effects that it has on anyone who experiences it. Martin Luther king employs realistic examples to defend himself from clergymen's accusation and also to show other readers on how segregation damages a person's character. In his letter, Dr. King clearly mentioned some of the thinkers who influenced him in fight against segregation.

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