In 1963 eight clergymen advised Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that his street protests to end racial segregation was “unwise and untimely.” Racial injustice, they agreed did exist, however thought it would be better to handle the issue with patience and through the judicial system. King responded to the criticism in his Letters from the Birmingham Jail.
The first criticism that he addresses is being called an “outsider.” Dr. King answers in many ways to support why he is in Birmingham to begin with. He tells the clergymen that he is the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was invited by affiliates of the organization. Moreover, King did not consider himself as an outsider because he believed that as long as he was living within the bounds of the United States, he couldn’t be labeled an outsider. He tells them that to be more specific he is there because injustice is there. And that he feels he is relationship with all communities and states he will not sit idly in Atlanta and ignore what was going in Birmingham. He compares himself to the prophet Apostle Paul to show the importance of spreading the gospel of freedom.
Secondly, he dealt with the demonstrations being called “untimely.” Martin responds with several reasons as to why it was indeed a befitting time for direct action. The most passionate reason is that Birmingham was the most segregated city in the United States. It was overrun with racial injustice. Black people had experienced discrimination in the courts and had their homes and churches bombed. Even with dealing with these disparities, black leaders tried to negotiate but the city fathers refused. Another reason was because Birmingham’s merchants did not respond to initial negotiations to remove humiliating racial signs. He says that though they did remove a few signs, they soon after returned. He decided to move during the Easter Holiday because this would be the second largest shopping season besides Christmas and...
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