The author of the letter, Martin Luther King Jr. was the most well-known fighter for the rights of the Afro-Americans in the USA. Moreover, this man was one of the most educated among the social and political activists contemporary to him, that’s why he could lead the discussion with the white politicians and religious leaders, and persuade them in the rightness of his ideas.
Discussion and Background
In order to prove his viewpoint, Martin Luther brings the examples from the religious sources, such as the New and Old Testament, from the history of the American democracy, and from the world history.
For example, in order to explain and support his vision of the just and unjust laws Martin Luther provides the words of the middle-age catholic religious leader and mystic St. Thomas Aquinas, and when the need for the civil disobedience needs to be proved, he brings the example of the people who disobeyed the command to give all the Jews to the Nazi government both in Germany and occupied countries. To support this claim he also recalled the early Christians who refused to obey the orders of Nebuchadnezzar, as those were against their moral and religious beliefs. (Franklin, 1990)
In order to clear himself from the accusations in the extremism, Martin Luther recalled the well-known phrases and sayings by the famous people. In his writing Martin Luther talked about priests and ministers, clearly displaying that all of them were sometimes capable of the heroic words and deeds, and of the cowardice or malice pretense. (Erskine, 1994) To reach this goal, the writer brings the examples that support his claims both from the social and religious life, puts them near in the text and illustrates the same things with them. He also justifies his followers’ actions, which are of political and social significance, by the religious principles and values found in the Bible.
In his writing Martin Luther King expresses deep concern for the fate of the American democracy which shatters its authority by acting against the principles its leaders have always been proclaiming. He claims that the separation of the church and state, that has been happening for quite a long time now, affects badly the moral condition of the politicians together with the ordinary citizens, as the first propose and accept the laws that are out of tune with both the religious principles and the moral values most human beings share and try to follow, while the second do not protest against it, accepting all the unjust decisions of those, who are in power at the moment. (King, 1983)
As stated in the beginning, Letter from Birmingham Jail is considered to be the classical example of the political writing, the one which made its way to the textbooks. I hope that after reading this essay you will understand the causes for that. Martin Luther King touched lots of vital questions in his letter, and he did it with such skill that people read it and benefit from it to the present time.
Erskine, Noel Leo. (1994). King Among the Theologians. Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim Press.
Franklin, Robert Michael. (1990). Liberating Visions: Human Fulfillment and Social Justice in African-American Thought. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
King, Coretta Scott, ed. (1983). The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Newmarket Press.