Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Topics: Jim Crow laws, United States, Law Pages: 2 (550 words) Published: November 2, 2005
In a "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" written by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963, King addresses the issue of inequality of citizens in existence in American society and the need for moral responsibility regarding human dignity. The issues of inequality addressed by King in his letter are still prominent in American society today; no longer mandated by law, but by the mere existence of custom and racism. Dr. King uses logical appeal in order to explain the difference between just and unjust laws. Logical appeal is the strategic use of logic, claims, and evidence to convince an audience of a certain point. He states that "a just law is a man-made code that agrees with the moral law or the law of God. An law is unjust it is inflicted on a minority that, had no part in enacting or devising the law. An unjust law degrades human personality. King considered the laws of segregation to be unjust laws because "segregation distorts the soul and degrades the personality." Laws dealing specifically with segregation were adopted in the late 1800's by many southern states. These laws were called Jim Crow Laws. These segregation laws required that whites and blacks use separate public facilities. In the most influential case in 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld a Louisiana law that required separate but equal facilities for whites and blacks in railroad cars. This decision influenced the "separate but equal" rule for more than 50 years. The 1964 Civil Rights Act made racial discrimination in public places, such as theaters, restaurants and hotels, illegal. It also required employers to provide equal employment opportunities. The Civil Rights act also stated that federal funding would not be given to segregated schools, which were banned in 1954. In the 1960's although many laws that supported segregation were declared unconstitutional, segregation continued to exist and increase more by the influence of custom than by law. Dr. King did...
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