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The Letter From A Birmingham Jail | Analysis

Info: 1682 words (7 pages) Essay
Published: 16th May 2017 in History

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Beyond the story of how this famous letter was written, its importance consisted in the defense that makes Martin Luther King of this movement of non-violence and civil resistance, as well as the defense of the methods used by the African American culture against actions of segregationist maintained for centuries by the white community who inhabited the southern of United States. This letter is in itself, the summary of the movement against racism and part of the struggle of a great movement in the United States in favor of civil rights that developed in the early 60s. In this letter, Martin Luther King is trying to convince a large majority of people that segregation has a negative impact on the community and trying to report the racial difference that African Americans are suffering in the United States. For this purpose, Martin Luther King Jr mainly uses logic and emotion to describe the agony of African-American people who have to live in a racist society. Throughout the letter he showed eloquence and knowledge of the issues of the colored people. Martin Luther King mainly uses the logic and the emotion in his letter, but he also makes use of ethics to illustrate some problems of that society. Through the use of these resources he was able to explain to the world the segregation that African American people were living at that time.

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The letter especially tries to be focused on the themes related to the segregation of the Afro-American population taking critical points such as the phases of the not violent action, the need of the peaceful provocation, the response to the accusations of extremism, the Church’s attitude toward social injustices. Martin Luther King used Jr. prose full of logic and extremely powerful examples to convey a basic message that injustice cannot succeed if those who fight for justice are willing to suffer for defending it. He sets an example that justice is only for the benefit of some, and when it comes over a colored person there is no justice. Their arguments are at the same academic level, social and religious that the majority of their opponents. It is due to the low or zero response from the authorities and the community in general that the Civil Rights Movement decides to launch a campaign of direct action, which it was based on implementing different forms of peaceful demonstration such as economic boycott, and sit-ins in those establishments in which segregationist actions were held against the Afro-American. These forms of expression intended to create a state of tension without resort to violence. For Martin Luther King, the negotiation is definitely the key concept of peaceful civil resistance and to reach this place, it is necessary as a last resort the direct action. In Birmingham, the economic boycott against traders responded to the use of the last recourse used by Martin Luther King to fight against racial signs that were displayed by the white community in their establishments. Despite segregation was prohibited the reality under the acts for African Americans was very different. This kind of social discrimination was completely internalized in the white community; manifested in all possible forms and types within the daily lives of Americans’ southern towns. The African American community was tired of waiting to justice and double standards for the application of the law, which is a conscious act of the last 340 years of the history of the African American community this allowed them to require proper use and application of the law, but it also allowed them to break the laws that are unfair; “an unjust law is no such law” as written on this letter by Martin Luther King paraphrasing St. Thomas Aquinas. Hence that disobedience to the laws and ordinances of segregation match historically with other movements such as of the Gandhi.

In this letter, Martin Luther King described in a strong sense the emotions and feelings that afro Americans lived. He tries to show people the negative effect of segregation. Martin Luther King wrote about the emotional impact that represented among colored people live through such harsh conditions; For this, he puts concrete examples such as “when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children”. Throughout the letter can be seen a progressive rise in tone when he writes words like “injustice” it does so with greater emphasis, showing which words are most salient in his letter and what concepts revolve around the racial problem experienced by African Americans. Furthermore, when write of the unfair treatment that afro Americans suffer when faced with the laws of the whites, notably Martin Luther King expresses his discomfort, thus giving more drama and excitement to his words; just as when he writes of “women,” “children,” and “old,” trying to sensitize people. Martin Luther King seeks to engage readers in the letter so that they feel the tension of the situations experienced by colored people, while asking them to keep fighting for their ideals. Another example is when he criticizes the police force because they mistreat colored people regardless of age or sex, and gives the example of when he was in jail and saw the injustice committed by the police. For this, he uses a highly detailed description of what he saw: ” I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together.” With this example, he tried to make people who did not go through this suffering understand the reasons of why colored people needed a fair law of no discrimination.

For Dr. King, the differentiation between a just and an unjust law becomes of the moral and Christian ethics, so in the words of Dr. King “A just law is a man made code That Squares with the moral law or the law of God.” This is a religious tinge that highlights the thinking and action of the Civil Rights movement headed by Martin Luther King, and sets it apart from other movements such as the Muslim movement of Elijh Muhammad that it was a more radical movement. However, they agreed on the fact of the struggle for equal rights regardless of the color of the skin. In another hand, Martin Luther King also criticized the ethics and morals of the white churches and challenges them in welcoming African Americans to Their worship service on a no segregated basis. Even in his essay criticizes the moral character of the reverends of his time who had no respect for colored people. In his famous letter,Martin Luther King Jr claims to some clergymen, the little knowledge or having a lot of ignorance about the movement for civil rights, regrets the ethics of a state seeking through silence suppression motion, and deplores the approach adopted by the religious authorities of Birmingham City; in the words of Martin Luther King, ” Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States,” For this reason Martin Luther King Jr chose this city to undertake different types of peaceful actions in order to put an end to the prevailing racism.

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In conclusion, Martin Luther King in his Letter from Birmingham Jail confesses that he feels extremely disappointed with the white community that ignores the suffering of African Americans, who promise equality but after all cannot fulfill their promise, of the police force instead of enforcing the laws violate the laws, and the clergymen who do not enforce the divine laws. In Birmingham, they used a variety of methods of nonviolent direct action, including occupations of buildings, and local churches protests, but the city got a court order to suppress all these protests. With the conviction that the order was unconstitutional, the campaign challenged it and prepared for the detention of his supporters. Martin Luther King was chosen to be among those arrested. The congruence of his principles and arguments that demonstrated such as logic and emotion gave him the moral to ask to disobey a law that in a text can be fair but in practice never took place. The movement of Martin Luther King against the common practice of segregation in the southern United States, and specifically in the case of Birmingham Alabama, determined in part the future of the Civil Rights action in the United States, because it showed the injustice of which were subject the African American community. The civil disobedience and peaceful resistance practiced against racist and segregationist South in the United States; showed further innovation in the methods of resistance that allowed the start of a gradual change in the application of justice and, therefore, once again the construction of a truly democratic society, plural and equal to all Americans. Throughout his essay Martin Luther King tries to state the purpose of his letter that are injustice and inequality. I think he had a significant impact on his readers because he could combine two important points in this essay the logic and emotion. He used emotion giving examples of how white people treated colored people and used logic with evidence demonstrating the truth. The combinations of these two elements had as a result a clear and concise essay that can convince of their arguments to the majority of its readers.


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