Letter from Birmingham Jail

Freedom must be demanded from the oppressor by the oppressed. Being asked to “wait” has always meant “never” since justice too long delayed is justice denied.

The Blacks waited for more than 340 years for their constitutional and God-given rights. Even after African and Asia countries gained their independence, Black American were still segregated in their societies. They were not allowed in motels and social amenities, most of which had been marked with racist signs (King Jr.). They were generally referred to as ‘Negros’ and none accorded their names or proper titles. Segregation meant they were denied places in public schools despite Supreme Court rule outlawing the vice.

Just laws are those that apply uniformly across different groups while unjust ones are forced on the weaker minorities. They were denied voting rights as well as the provisions of the First Amendment to peaceful assembly and protest.

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Breakers of unjust laws and are willing to suffer the consequences for the sake of showing their injustice is showing the highest regard for the law. Examples of civil disobedience for the regard of just laws include those of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the early Christian martyrs in the Roman Empire. Socrates’ death came at the defense of the law and so were the events at the Boston Tea Party.

Unjust laws include Adolf Hitler’s anti-Jew laws; it was illegal to comfort and aid Jews. Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged the Blacks to channel their anger and discontent in creative ways. He contests being categorized as an extremist for the reason that he defends a section of the society that is “half slave and half free.”

The White church and the Rabbis were expected to join the freedom movement, but many of them were cautious than they were helpful. Some even misinterpreted the leadership and discouraged the fight against segregation. King is hopeful that the clouds of racism and fog of misunderstanding will pass away and lift.

Of Our Spiritual Strivings

The author, considering himself/herself as an outsider in the society, ponders on the questions asked by people from ‘the other world.’ The question is ‘how does it feel to be a problem?’ signifying that the Blacks are a problem in the society.

Being a problem is a strange experience for everyone. The author remembers the days of childhood in the hills of New England, experiencing rejection from the rest of the children because he was different (Du Bois). All hopes and dreams belonged to the other world and were all out of the author’s reach despite how smart or better qualified he/she could become; the color of the skin being the major problem.

The rest of the races were perceived as being better. The history of African Americans was that of strife to attain self-conscious manhood. The author wanted to be both Negro and American, wishing to be heard without doors of opportunities being closed on him by fellow Americans because he was Negro.

The Blacks in America have languished in poverty, fighting for equality in a society that has set them apart and denied them freedom. This struggle for emancipation and freedom have been sabotaged by holocaust wars and the terrors of Ku-Klux Klan and other foes of the Black man. The constitutional rights had been denied- those to vote and acquire education.

The Black race was handicapped and yet was compared with the rest as being “lower”. The African Americans were prejudiced and their ideals suppressed. They were expected to be contented servants as they were regarded as half-men.


Works Cited

Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt. The Souls of Black Folk. Penguin Books, 1996. Print.

King Jr., Martin Luther. Letter from the Birmingham Jail. Harper San Francisco, 1994. Print.