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Letter from Birmingham...
Martin Luther King Jr.
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Letter from Birmingham City Jail

4.61 of 5 stars 4.61  ·  rating details  ·  1,380 ratings  ·  100 reviews
Dr. King wrote this famous essay (written in the form of an open letter) on 16 April 1963 while in jail. He was serving a sentence for participating in civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama. He rarely took time to defend himself against his opponents. But eight prominent "liberal" Alabama clergymen, all white, published an open letter earlier in January that c ...more
Published 1963
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Lance Greenfield
I have a reputation for writing powerful, effective letters, and I am proud to say that I have successfully fought for the rights of many individuals against the bigger society who have attempted to repress them. However, this letter is many leagues above any letter that I have ever written!

It is inspiring. I wonder if there is any public record of the response from the eight clergymen to whom this open letter was addressed?

My reading of this letter, on the day after Martin Luther King Jr Day (
A link is provided here for anyone who would like to read this letter:

Wonderful, powerful words. It's crazy to think that over 50 years later the same issues are STILL issues.

"You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am
sorry to say, fails so express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the
demonstrations." <----Now THAT is a point to ponder! It amazes me that those in charge have to be told tha
This long letter is the most important written document of the Civil Rights Era (tied with the Civil Rights Act of '68 itself). Direct action, the connections of all American communities, the lie of 'waiting' for justice to happen.

Required reading. The cause for justice continues.
I have lost my review twice now so this will be short. Read this! The text is available online here or at other sites. Dion Graham was a marvelous choice as narrator, as his voice has a similar timbre to MLK's - you can almost feel like King is speaking himself.
I am amazed by the eloquence with each successive reading. Dr. King composed this essay as a response to eight Southern Christian ministers who wrote a letter to the newspaper criticizing King's nonviolent protests and urging him to let the battle over segregation be settled in the courts. They call King an extremist, and question the urgency of his call for racial equality. In a deliberate tone, King categorically answers their criticisms. King knows his audience, and constructs a reply that no ...more
Dr. Trent
This was a truly amazing recording. After hearing this recording, I was struck by how Dr. King could take so many ideas from so many sources and smoothly and coherently tie them together. In this speech, Dr. King eloquently uses parallelism, allusion, and metaphor to paint a clear image of what the black community was experiencing in the South at this time. His arguments are clear and his definitions are accurate. Just as the pastors he was speaking to, I felt compelled and duty-bound to address ...more
On April 16, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sat down in the Birmingham Jail and crafted this masterpiece. I was first exposed to the letter in high school when my AP English teacher had us read this in conjunction with another book I have forgotten as a lesson in persuasive writing. While it is the perhaps the seminal example of persuasive writing, for those of us who live in what was the segregated South it is much more. As such, I try to read either this letter or other writings from Dr. Ki ...more
Written after I read the letter as a junior in college 1998:

“Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation”. He asserts that if anything great is ever to happen, it will take men of action and vision to accomplish it.

It was clear that Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in the power of the individual. He demonstrated t
Wanda Hartzenberg
I had no idea what I was letting myself infor when I started to listen to this recording.

When I found that Martin Luther King Jr was addressing pastors who verbally attacked his modus operandi I started to get interested.

I was drawn in by his masterful use of words to persuade, draw images and address issues encompassing oppression but in no way limited to the subject.

It is clear that he was an extremely intelligent well versed man who found the time not to pressure, to attack or tear down, but
Krystl Louwagie
Well, come on. What bad things can you really say about this?
After completely reading Dr. King's "Letter From Birmingham Jail." The letter left me with a number of emotions, considerations. Above all I understood the passion and clarity of Dr. King's logic. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" Dr. King wrote.
In answering his critics of Why now? and Why here?

In an unkind world, where mankind exist as oppose to live. Dr. King words speaks louder than ever.
Katie Mcintyre
The letter was written literally from King's cell in Birmingham jail, on a piece of toilet paper. This was in 1963, at the peak of King's popularity and his optimism about the capability of white Americans to change.

The letter outlines why nonviolent civil disobedience was justified and key to the success of the civil rights movement. He argues in favour of the necessity to create political tension and draw attention towards issues in society which have been ignored, forcing white oppressors to
Joseph Iliff
I was amazed a reading this how well crafted Dr. King's sentences are. He is making a nuanced argument in response to criticism about his "direct action" in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. He artfully makes points of logic and reason, while also communicating his passion and strong feelings concerning the subject. I found this to be a compelling read.
The Perfect Essay. I use this as a model for all my students for all my English classes: Lit., critical thinking, compostion, etc. He knows poetry; metaphor; logic, pathos, and logos; support and driving home points build on foundations of thought that are of such great breadth and depth that no one knocks him off. No King knock offs out there, for sure.
Bashir Alsamani
I can not write a review for this amazing letter , I don't think that there are enough stars to rate it or rate Mr.king ,in his cell he responded to his fellow clergyman who doubted the efficiency of the non violent protests and other methods of Mr.King, I really want to know what was this guy's reaction when he read the letter ..
Edith Hope Bishop
Sigh. This piece always makes me sad. And hopeful. And angry. And calm. All at once. And my students love it, although they can get confused about his audience, what exactly civil disobedience is, and why we haven't fixed everything by now.
I had no idea.

I had heard quotes.

Until I read what came before and after those quotes, I did not realize that the most popularly used words were just the explanation marks and periods of more powerful ideas.
Jan Mcginn
as much a part of the american canon as the declaration of independence, gettysburg address, etc.
Nellie K.
powerful message about change, that you can't wait til it happens, you have to make it happen.
This is an amazing piece of literature--King totally captures the historical moment and really does a lot of complex things here. He is angry--not a trait usually associated with King, but he's angry at the snail's pace progress is moving. He's angry with white moderates, whom he considers to be his biggest enemy, because they are often well-meaning yet hide behind the law when it's convenient. King makes excellent points that I think we should all consider, about following just and unjust laws, ...more
While not exactly book length, I'm glad I listened to the audio recording of this powerful letter written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while he sat in jail for leading a non-violent (and also non-licensed) demonstration in Birmingham, Alabama. Here he so eloquently lays out the case against segregation and explains why the lack of negotiations has led to these peaceful protests and how the aim is to bring about equally peaceful negotiations, not violence. He is firm in his convictions and when ...more
Shaeley Santiago
Having read We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March earlier this summer, it was interesting to read Dr. King's letter. It helped to have more background about what was going on that prompted him to make the arguments he did as he lay out his position about the protests. While I was familiar with the letter in a general way, I did not realize that it was as long as it was. I was also very impressed with his logic and persuasive powers. Given that he was in jail at the time he wrote ...more
Leon Gray
SS5H2 The student will analyze the effects of Reconstruction on American life.
Explain how slavery was replaced by sharecropping and how African-Americans were prevented from exercising their newly won rights; include a discussion of Jim Crow laws and customs.

SS5H8 The student will describe the importance of key people, events, and developments between 1950-1975. Explain the key events and people of the Civil Rights movement; include Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Montgomery Bus Boycott,
Laura (booksnob)
King sits in a jail arrested on Good Friday for standing up for his rights and the rights of others. On April 12th he is smuggled a newspaper and sees the headline "A Call To Unity" written by 8 clergyman criticizing King and his methods, calling him an "Outsider". King wrote his reply on April 16, 1963 on anything he could find to write on, the newspaper, scraps of paper and eventually a notepad.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mu
You can download this for free this week from this link:

Read by Dion Graham
Published by christianaudio

April 16th. The year is 1963. Birmingham, Alabama has had a spring of non-violent protests known as the Birmingham Campaign, seeking to draw attention to the segregation against blacks by the city government and downtown retailers. The organizers longed to create a non-violent tension so severe that the powers that be would be forced to address the rampant
This letter is a classic of christian theology, forming subsequent generations of theologians and christian teachers. Quotations from this letter appear regularly, almost as often as from King's "Dream" speech. The letter, in the best prophetic pastoral epistolary tradition, summarizes concisely the urgency of the work for racial equality and justice. The letter lives, well past its specific social moment, because it applies to universally to the continued labors of liberation and because it dra ...more
There was a time when I respected Malcolm X much more than MLK because MLK was a Christian minister & Malcolm X was a criminal. I despise Christianity (for the most part) & can identify strongly w/ what I call the "criminally sane" - meaning people who have the courage to defy obviously oppressive (& totally legal) social systems. These days, though, I have to concede that MLK got much more positive done. Besides wch, the Nation of Islam that X was associated w/ was, IMO, a thoroughl ...more
The only appropriate way to honor this masterpiece of moral strength and clarity, mind-altering eloquence, reason and crystal clear definition of the differences between justice and injustice is to quote the mighty Chrisopher Hitchens himself: " It is quite read his sermons or watch recordings of his speeches without profound emotion of the sort that can sometimes bring genuine tears. Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” written in response to a group of white Christian cler ...more
I can't believe it took me this long to get to reading this! A short letter that only took me 30 or so minutes to read, but poignant, faithful, thoughtful, positive, and empowering. It is no wonder this letter is such a standard and no wonder that Dr. MLK is forever a key symbol of the Civil Rights movement. That man had a way with words. But mostly I appreciate him calling out those who should know better than to stand by silent and his firm grasp of what he calls loving disobedience.
I will sa
Dr. King's eloquence is perfectly placed in this letter to a group of clergymen disgruntled with the tactics of direct action. His ability to focus our attention on the most salient points, while guiding us through the process is nothing short of brilliant.
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Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the pivotal leaders of the American civil rights movement. King was a Baptist minister, one of the few leadership roles available to black men at the time. He became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955–1956) and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1957), serving as its first president. His ef ...more
More about Martin Luther King Jr....
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Why We Can't Wait A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches Strength to Love I Have a Dream / Letter from Birmingham Jail

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“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” 44 likes
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” 38 likes
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