4510 Values: Personal and Social
Letter from Birmingham Jail
The African American movement transpired in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Although, there were many consequences for such rebellion, African Americans still rioted for their freedom. They were harmed and suffered great pain for the march and were even jailed for their acts. Martin Luther King was a strong African American leader who fought for the elevation of segregation. He was jailed and wrote, “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” to the clergymen to address the issues that had came from the African American struggles for freedom.
In King’s letter there were several reasons why the clergymen opposed the desegregation movement. One reason was the timing. By this they meant that such a radical transformation of culture should not be rushed. King was frustrated as he waited and pleaded for the “right” time to address these issues. The clergymen see this as nothing more than obeying laws. King thought that the segregation issues had gone on long enough. He said, “Now is the time to make the real promise of democracy, and transform our pending nation elegy into creative psalm of brotherhood.” King believed the wait was over and there would never be a “right” time.
The clergymen make many contradictions within the reading about laws and how segregation is justified by the Christian traditions. MLK addresses some of these contradictions when referring to the “just” and “unjust” laws and how it correlates to segregation. He believed that a law that is “just” is man-made by the law of God. An ‘unjust” law is when a code is out of harmony with the moral law, such as the distortion of other human beings. This brings about an important concept of Immanuel Kant. A law should be universal; therefore, if they were telling African Americans that they had to do this or that, then the “whites” should be doing the same thing. The laws should have applied to everybody.
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