Martin Luther King Letter from Birmingham Jail

Dr. M. L. King Jr. wrote a letter while incarcerated in April of 1963. The letter would later be referenced as the “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The letter gained more popularity later in the year due to its context. The letter didn’t really start off as a letter. At the time it was created from margins of a newspaper. While King was incarcerated he wrote bits and pieces of the letter that got passed on to his lawyer. They would later rework the content into a full letter that turned out to be sort of a jigsaw puzzle.

King was arrested and taken to jail in Birmingham, AL in 1963 before he wrote the letter. At the time, Birmingham, AL was a difficult place for blacks to live since everything was segregated. Blacks were not treated fairly. King was known for protesting in different parts of the south, and a judge ruled he was not allowed to protest in the Birmingham area. This led to King’s arrest. The events of unrest in the black community and the civil rights of black Americans inspired King to write the letter.

In the letter, King defended people rights to be able to protest peacefully when laws seem unjustified. He felt people have a responsibility to speak up and be heard when regulations and rules are unfair. His letter was an example of why people should take things into their own hands (nonviolently) to break laws that are not right. In the letter, King details things people can do when they want to exercise their rights about certain laws or situations affecting their ability to live in prosperity and fairness. He encourages people to examine the situation by collecting evidence, look for ways to negotiate or compromise, refine the situation and then take action.

Elements of the letter would later inspire King to write a book titled “Why We Can’t Wait.” In the book the full letter in its entirety is available to readers. During the summer the letter was republished in dozens of publications even though at one point some publishers didn’t want to publish it. The letter was intended to be used for colleges and scholars as an educational learning piece in regards to human civil rights. The letter would grow to be an important part of American history.