“Letter from Birmingham City Jail” Response

The Reverend transcends his reputation through his ability to write direct and focused writing. Dr. King uses this essay to explain the vastly complicated situation in the south and through doing so sheds some much needed light on the plight of the 20th century African-American. This letter is a response to southern Christian ministers who earlier criticize King’s ideas of nonviolent protest and demonstration. King counters with an educated and well thought out plea to not only the ministers, but to anyone reading who doubted the movement to equality.

Among many wonderful features of King’s writing (like showing us the raw side of segregation or equaling the dedication to his struggle to that of Paul) is his ability to cite well-respected sources which empower his movement evermore. His use of the ever endearing word of Jesus Christ helps to explain the intentions of his people’s movement: “Love your enemies, bless them that they curse you, pray for them that they despitefully use you.” On the subject of the laws that hold his people back, King uses the words of Saint Augustine to demonstrate that man is not above the rule of god when creating laws: “An unjust law is no law at all.” These quotes not only illustrate the voice of the African-American at the time, but the wisdom of MLK.

This essay is a tribute to the African-American struggle and also the ability of Martin Luther King Jr. to be an exceptionally effective proponent for that struggle. He uses quotes that are staggeringly in focus of his audience which only help to better his credibility. This piece of writing is a large contributor to the image of Dr. King and his eloquently stylistic writing ability, and indeed a great stride towards his ultimate goal of “Peace and Brotherhood.” I believe you could make the argument that Dr. King’s ability to communicate so effectively to such a broad range of people was a majorly defining factor in the success of the Civil Rights Movement.


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