Martin Luther King wrote “A letter from Birmingham jail” in response to a published statement by eight fellow ministers from Alabama who violently critiqued King for association and involvement in the protest march against discrimination in Birmingham. King’s letter was an effort to defend himself from allegations and to criticize white moderates and church. Starting in the first lines of the letter, Martin Luther King tries to discard the denunciation of being an outsider in Birmingham.
He states that he was invited to Birmingham and had organizational connections as the president of Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Furthermore, Martin Luther King did not count himself to be an outsider due to the fact that all people who live within bounds of the United States of America could not be pronounced as outsiders. In reference to allegations that the protests were precocious, Martin Luther King states several reasons why this was a suitable time for direct action.
Originally, discussions with Birmingham’s economic public did not give correct results and suppliers did not remove mortifying racial signs from the stores. This became one of the motives that led to the rally. The Easter holiday was the second major shopping season and was elected by the protesters for direct-exploit program because it was the best time to bring burden on the merchants. King explains that the action was stalled several times due to impending elections but demonstrators felt that the action could not be delayed any longer.
Then, as Martin Luther King makes clear, protesters did not give a new Birmingham government time to react, because the newly elected Birmingham mayor Albert Boutwell was a segregationist just like his forerunner, Mr. Connor. Finally, King expresses that African Americans were waiting for this instant for more than 340 years and that it was more than sufficient. The next claim that Martin Luther King tries to disregard was explanation of him as a law-breaker.
In response to this allegation, King describes an idea of just and unjust laws and that everyone has a proper obligation to submit just laws and disobey unjust laws. According to him, just law is a moral law or the law of God, whereas unjust law is made up by humans and does not have anything common with endless and normal law. Unjust law is out of synchronization with moral law. King is sure that segregation law is unjust; therefore, people shouldn’t follow it. Then, Martin Luther King tries to quarrel being labeled an extreme by quarrelling that he stands between two onflicting groups in the African American community. One group includes African Americans who misplaced their self-respect due to long years of separation and have to get accustomed to it. The other group includes African Americans who have lost faith in America and advocate violence. King states that his challenge to stand in the middle of two forces and to support a peaceful action as the best way for struggle against segregation was wrongly considered as an extremist.
In the second part of the letter, Martin Luther King showed his dissatisfaction with the white church and its guidance by severely critiquing them. King points out how great his disappointment was when people who he thought to be strong allies failed to support him. White church desired to keep silent and did not contribute in the action. Martin Luther King cautions church that it would fail its genuineness if it would not return to the sacrificial essence of the early church.
Additionally, if the church would continue to stay unresponsive in the future it would be terminated as an irrelevant social club. Consequently, King writes how wrong his fellow ministers are in supporting Birmingham police by relating police brutality towards African Americans at the exploit. Martin Luther King ends his “A letter from Birmingham jail” with an appeal to forgive him for any conceivable imprecisions in his letter and points out that he still holds belief and optimism that racial preconception will soon be a thing of the past.