Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr

Posted: November 27th, 2013

Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr






Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr.


The above letter was an open type letter that was written from jail by Martin Luther King Jr. in 16 April 1963. He was arrested for being a part of the Birmingham protest, which was a diplomatic demonstration for protesting against racial isolation in Birmingham state. However, the first copy of the letter was published in the Christian Century article in the month of June in the year 1963. The long article was first rapidly published in a booklet form and then moved to many nationwide magazines to reach the White and Black race audience.

When Martin Luther was writing this letter, he was addressing it to several white clergymen who advised the black Americans to stop their Birmingham protests. However, Luther King was thinking of a bigger audience because his letter was made to be nationally accessible to members of the public. The white men converted their former appeal for order, by insisting on the black population in Birmingham State to ignore the influence of Luther King, whom they referred to as an outsider.


The purpose of writing the letter was to give answers to his opponents especially to those of the White race who criticized the time he made his decision to organize and begin movements of marching people after the event of Connor’s election failure. In addition, Luther King intended to discuss on important factors concerning spiritual and theoretical establishment of diplomatic forms of action in those people who participated in sharing their Judaism and Christian beliefs. Luther King was addressing the modest white southern population who declared their support for the municipal rights of the black race and focused on maintaining the state’s stability.


As Luther King illustrated chronological and theological cases for public noncompliance, he appeared to be maintaining the customs and traditions that the White clergymen identified as being shared amongst them. The white clergymen consented with the fact that societal inequalities were present but disagreed on the racial discrimination protests being carried out on the street instead of a formal court. This is the reason why they disapproved Luther King and even referred to him as an external negative influence that caused danger in Birmingham state. Martin Luther King Jr. responded in the letter by explaining that all societies and states were interconnected.


Luther King argued that the presence of injustice was a danger to integrity in all states of the world. He added that people are trapped in an unavoidable support network, joined in a single path to destiny. With this explanation, he therefore argued that if one person were affected by a particular issue directly, the other people would be affected indirectly by it. He also argued that any citizen who lived in the United States should not be perceived as an outcast. Luther King showed his concern in the letter over the protests that were taking place but maintained that the state system of the White race left the black people with no options.

The white clergymen did not also agree with the time in which the protest was happening. However, Luther King argued that waiting for something to happen meant that it was never going to happen and hence justice that was postponed for a long time caused justice to be rejected. When the clergymen stated that the act of protesting was illegal, Luther King argued that civil noncompliance was acceptable in the view of unjust rules and therefore one should have the moral obligation to defy unjust regulations.

Communication Strategy

Luther King used rhetorical strategies by developing emotions of compassion and closeness in his audience. He stirs up emotions in his audience including both the White and Black race communities. He also wanted to decrease the hostility arising from the White race citizens and renew the fire of diplomatic contestation in the African American mentality. He also intended to give the reader from the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants audience. In responding to the White clergymen allegations, he feels the urge to reason on the significance of his legitimized participation in the protesting events. In addition, he cooperates with different emotions in order to decrease the oppositions and strengthen his idea of battling for human rights. I think he is successful with these strategies because his letter has reached a large number of people all over the world and has left an impact in the issue of African American racism.

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