This letter was written by Martin Luther King Jr. from Birmingham Jail Alabama. Where he was confined for his non violence protest to demand for the economic and social equality in America. The clergy men in Alabama criticized his protest by calling it “unwise and untimely”. Being a minister himself he considered it important to answer the criticism. He explained the reasons to justify his presence in Alabama. One being that he was invited by the affiliates of Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and secondly the injustice towards Blacks called him to this city. He likens his struggle to the profits of the eighth century and Apostle Paul who left their homes to spread the message afar. Martin Luther did not consider himself an “outside agitator” as he was part of America and considered it his duty to stand against injustice anywhere in America as it is a “threat to justice everywhere”. He felt disappointed by the clergy men inability to see this injustice. In his letter he justifies and explains the importance and need of a nonviolence direct action and protest. In a very categorical way by first telling about its four basic steps; collection of facts, negotiations, self-purification and direct action. He calls Alabama thoroughly segregated city where Blacks face brutalities and injustice in their homes, churches and on the roads. The indifference of the city leaders forced the Blacks to protest. The merchants of the city promised to take down the humiliating racial signs to stop the demonstrations, but did not fulfill their promise completely. This dark cloud of disappointment prompted the Alabama Christian movement to jump to their last resort, meanwhile preparing themselves for the ordeal of answering violence with passivity. Two kinds of tensions exist, violent and constructive non violent one, which is imperative for growth. King Jr. deems his non violent protest to be a stepping stone towards negotiation as it fosters a tension that compels the other party to negotiate. He agrees with the clergy men’s insistence on dialogue by insisting on his strategy as the road to dialogue rather than monologue.
He counters the criticism of his actions being untimely and unwarned by very logically judging Mr. Bout well and Mr. Conner as segregationist. He believes that pressure is needed because groups do not give up privileges voluntarily and tend to be more “immoral than individuals”. Blacks have always been in the waiting line for even their birthrights and will never get them if they kept on waiting. King Jr. points at the biased and racist attitude towards black to silence the clergy. The physical, mental, social and economic cruelty inflicted on the blacks, steeping their minds in inferiority, uncertainty and shame had risen to such a degree that they were ready to snatch their rights. The accusation of law breaking in this process became very weak when king junior separated the law in to just and unjust law. Just law is the law of God and morality that “uplifts human personality” and the former “degrades human personality”. So Martin calls segregation unjust and declares that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”. Denying Blacks to vote and not registering them as citizens can never justify the law as just. For him the person who breaks an unjust law accepting the punishment has the deepest respect for law. Civil disobedience is justified if moral law is at stake. He keeps on giving religious examples specially if Christ to appeal to the clergy men.
Martin Luther criticizes “white moderate” as they stand in the middle ground hoping for order and peace without participating in the quest for justice. He wants them to realize that tension is preferable to a negative peace in which the colored had accepted their fate. The tension created by them will reveal the issues and test human conscious and national opinion. Martin Luther answers the clergy accusing him of violence by legitimizing it to do good. He is very logical and rational in his believes. He is not a fatalist as he believes in human effort. He tries to make every one understand that their way of protest is saving the nation from a bloody nightmare, as he is standing between two extremes of hopeless and slavish complacency and aggressive hatred towards the white man. He accepts the label of extremist by penning down the names of passionate prophets and politicians concluding his argument by saying that “the south, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists”. He expresses his disappointment in the white church that has been reluctant to extend support and kept a complacent stance. Martin Luther does not generalize as he applauds the few who respect and support his cause. He was confidant for success because his race rose from slavery and worse scenarios. He painted the picture of police brutality on roads and in jails to mute the clergy prays of the police department. He calls the demonstrators and sit inners heroes who will be recognized by the same people suppressing them. They will teach the true spirit of democracy to America dreamt by the great leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson.
It is a strong letter, very assertive as well as respectful. Martin Luther uses words very intelligently answering all the criticism and accusations. He was all for peace and brotherhood wanted the two races the white and black to live in harmony, I sensed no trace of hatred or aggression, only the desire to be equal and respected.