Letter from Birmingham City Jail and the Civil Rights Movement: Fraud, Sham, and Hoax

Topics: Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, United States Pages: 5 (1071 words) Published: September 17, 2014
Document 28-2 & Document 28-3
“Letter from Birmingham City Jail” & “The Civil Rights movement: Fraud, Sham, and Hoax” Coy Swatzell
HIS 202
Document 28-2 comes from a letter, “Letter From Birmingham City Jail”, that Martin Luther King Jr. wrote while he was in jail in Birmingham, Alabama. He was in jail because he had been arrested for participating in demonstrations. He directed this letter that he wrote from jail towards a group of white clergymen who criticized the Birmingham demonstrations. Document 28-3 comes from a speech, “The Civil Rights Movement: Fraud, Sham and Hoax”, given by the governor of Alabama, George C. Wallace, on July 4, 1964 in Atlanta, Georgia. He gave the speech to express his hard-lined opposition to racial change.

In Document 28-2, Marin Luther King Jr. calls out a group of white clergymen for their statement that called the present activities of demonstrations “unwise and untimely”. King felt the men were of genuine good will and their criticisms were sincerely set forth and he wanted to answer their statement in patient and reasonable terms. The white clergymen said argued Kings being in Birmingham as “outsiders coming in” and he wanted to defend his reason for being there. King was the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state. The headquarters of the organization was in Atlanta, Georgia. He goes on to say that the reason I am in Birmingham is because injustice is here and injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Birmingham is probably the most segregated city in the United States and has an ugly record of police brutality. The city of Birmingham’s treatment towards Negroes is unjust and unfair. There have been more unsolved violent crimes towards blacks in Birmingham then in any other city of the United States. He ask the clergymen why this cannot be settled with negotiation because that is clearly a better path then to as what is taking place. The letter King wrote was to ask the men to take nonviolent direct action to seek and establish equal rights for blacks. King goes on to say that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups rarely give up their privileges voluntarily. We can see through experience that freedom is never voluntarily given up. It must be demanded. King was tired of waiting for change in the United States because the word, “wait!” was all he ever heard and nothing was ever done.

Martin Luther King Jr. wished that the Negros had been commended for their demonstrations and their courage to fight for their civil rights. He felt that one day the South would realize its real heroes such as James Meredith, the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi. He wanted people like Rosa Parks to be recognized for their courage to stand up to the whites and take charge to gain equal rights for blacks and white. King’s letter to the white clergymen ultimately was to stand up for the blacks and let the white people know that their doings were wrong and unjust.

In document 28-3, George C. Wallace gives a speech in Atlanta, Georgia on July 4, 1964 called “The Civil Rights Movement: Fraud, Sham and Hoax.” In this speech George C. Wallace denounces the civil rights movement. In his previous inaugural address, he sated “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” This statement won a large regional and national following for his hard-lined opposition to racial change. He starts off the speech of the document 28-3 by remembering the patriots who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their honor to establish and defend a government created by the people and empowered by the people. He then says that it is cruel irony that the President has only yesterday signed the most monstrous piece of legislation, the 1964 Civil...

Cited: Wallace, George. “The Civil Rights movement: Fraud, Sham, and Hoax.” (1964): 28-3. Quoted in Michael P. Johnson’s, Reading the American Past: Selected Historical Documents. Vol. 2. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2009.
Luther King Jr., Martin. “Letter from Birmingham City Jail.” (1964): 28-2. Quoted in Michael P. Johnson’s, Reading the American Past: Selected Historical Documents. Vol. 2. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2009.
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