Birmingham Jail

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“Every Crisis Has Opportunity”
Throughout the past century there hasn’t been a leader as influential as Dr. Martin Luther King. During the 1960’s the thought of desegregation was merely a fairytale, and King forever changed the landscape of The United States. Like many black Americans King was tired, tired of being discriminated and not being treated as equally as whites. It was through his speeches and letters that King delivered his message greater than anyone could imagine. Ultimately his most poignant piece was comprised during the darkest hour of the Civil Rights Movement, “Letter From A Birmingham Jail”. This letter to his clergymen allowed them to understand his rational of attacking injustice with direct action and non-violence.

In the 1960’s Birmingham was the capital for racial inequality in the south. Attempting to rationalize civil rights for blacks through the courts would have taken greater lengths of struggle that blacks could no longer endure. In “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” King answers the question “Why direct action” beautifully, “Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path? You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored” (“Letter From A Birmingham Jail”).

In this piece of the letter King is able to answer one of his most controversial beliefs and the reasoning for seeking justice through direct action non-violent protests. Later in the letter King successfully articulates his means for acting now through a play on words with “wait” and “never”. “For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of...
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