Letter From Birmingham Jail: Essential quotes with page
1. “I am in Birmingham due to the fact that injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the 8th century B. C. left their villages and carried their ‘therefore saith the Lord’ far beyond the limits of their home towns, and simply as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I obliged to bring the gospel of flexibility beyond my home town.” (Page 86) King’s Christian faith was a vital part of his engagement with the Civil Rights Motion.
In this quote, he explains that his involvement in the protests in Birmingham place him directly in the tradition of Christians who went from place to place, some extremely far from the houses, to preach the gospel. King’s gospel in this case is a social and political one that agitates for freedom.
2. “Oppression anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inevitable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one straight, affects all indirectly. Never ever once again can we pay for to deal with a narrow, provincial ‘outdoors agitator’ idea.
Anybody who lives inside the United States can never be thought about an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” (Page 87) In this quote, King uses the concept of the interrelatedness of all neighborhoods to make the argument that expected outsiders like King are really experts due to the fact that inequality is a nationwide problem. This argument is likewise designed to defend against a regular accusation that segregationists made against activists, particularly that they were outside agitators who had no business meddling in affairs in communities outside of their own.
3. “In any nonviolent project there are 4 basic steps: collection of the facts to identify whether oppressions exist; negotiation; self filtration; and direct action. We have actually gone through all these steps in Birmingham.” (Page 87) One of the criticisms to which King reacts is that the Birmingham demonstrations are untimely. In this quote, he counters this argument by arguing that the protests were merely the next logical step in the process. This quote is just one of numerous examples of King’s use of interest factor.
4. “We know through uncomfortable experience that flexibility is never ever voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be required by the oppressed.” (Page 91) In this quote, King makes an argument for the more militant, assertive position of the protestors for civil rights. This stance is a direct response to critics who thought the easing of inequality would take place without direct intervention by activists.
5. “Simply as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a stress in the mind so that individuals could rise from the chains of myths and half truths to the unfettered world of innovative analysis and unbiased appraisal, so must we see the requirement for nonviolent gadflies to develop the type of tension in society that will assist guys increase from the dark depths of bias and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.” (Page 90) In this quote, King develops credibility for his position by using a reputable figure, Socrates, as an example of the function irritants like King can play in enhancing society.
6. “We have actually waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God provided rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed towards gaining political self-reliance, but we still sneak at horse and buggy pace towards acquiring a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Possibly it is simple for those who have never felt the stinging darts of partition to say, ‘Wait. ‘” (Page 91-92) By placing the African-American struggle for flexibility in the context of centuries of waiting, King helps the audience to see that the struggle for freedom is not surprisingly urgent.
By pointing out that international movements for freedom are also rising, King helps the reader to understand the U. S. is far behind. This quote is likewise an example of the interrelatedness of motions at home and abroad.
7.” [T] here are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the very first to advocate following simply laws. One has not just a legal however a moral duty to follow simply laws. Conversely, one has an ethical duty to disobey unfair laws.” (Page 93) King utilizes an interest reasoning to compare the two type of laws in order to prevent any appearance of hypocrisy occurring out the protestors’ insistence that segregationists follow the law and their own willingness to break the law.
8. “Obviously, there is nothing brand-new about this sort of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the rejection of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to comply with the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a greater moral law was at stake […] In our own country, the Boston Tea ceremony represented a massive act of civil disobedience.” (Page 96) King references Christian and American examples of civil disobedience to assist the clergymen understand that the actions of the protestors are not extreme at all.
By utilizing sources of authority that line up with the beliefs of his audience, King makes it most likely that the clergymen will be won over to his point of view.
9. “I have actually almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s excellent stumbling block in his stride towards freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, however the white moderate.” (Page 97) An important purpose of this essay is to activate not just African-Americans however likewise white moderates, who had been resting on the sidelines of the Civil Rights Motion.
In this quote, King straight criticizes white moderates using hyperbole (overstatement) to drive home the point that their complacency and attitude toward African-Americans are part of the issue.
10. “Human progress never ever rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of males ready to be colleagues with God, and without this effort, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.” (Page 99) King utilizes metaphors related to motion and inertia to reveal that active engagement in the battle for flexibility, instead of passivity, will lead to change.
11. ” [I] f they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of disappointment and misery, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies– a development that would undoubtedly cause a frightening racial nightmare.” (Page 101) King makes a practical argument here by requiring the members of the audience to consider the alternative to nonviolent resistance: violent resistance. This is an effective relocation since even individuals who were not in favor of nonviolent resistance would likely prefer it to black violence, an ingrained worry of whites that dates all the way back to slave revolts.
12. “Oppressed individuals can not stay oppressed permanently. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has actually advised him of his birthright of liberty […] Consciously or automatically, he has actually been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black bros of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of terrific seriousness towards the promised land of racial justice.” (Page 101)
King links the motion for civil rights to global liberation motions, in orderto acclimate it. In addition, King obliquely referrals the idea of natural law, the basis for self-government that is referenced in essential foundational files of American democracy, such as the Declaration.
13. “However the judgment of God is upon the church as never in the past. If today’s church does not regain the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, surrender the commitment of millions, and be dismissed as an unimportant social club without any meaning for the twentieth century.
Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has developed into straight-out disgust.” (Page 107) King assumes a more emotional tone when he goes over the failure of the church to show up for the Civil Liberty Motion. His expressions of disappointment would likely move the main audience, made up of clergymen, to shame, and therefore make them more supportive to his position.
14. “I wish you had actually commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their fantastic discipline in the midst of terrific provocation. One day the South will recognize its genuine heroes.” (Page 110) An essential intervention in much of King’s writing is in the representation of African-Americans. While African-Americans were regularly presented as passive and inferior, King uses the figure of the African-American protester to modify them as brave and deserving of respect.
15. “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial bias will quickly die and the deep fog of misconception will be lifted from our fear drenched neighborhoods, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our fantastic country with all their scintillating beauty.” (Page 112) King uses a prolonged metaphor to end the essay on a lighter, more confident note that contrasts with the denunciations, directed in part at his main audience, of the essential paragraphs.