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Letter from Birmingham Jail

4.61 of 5 stars 4.61  ·  rating details  ·  1,681 ratings  ·  130 reviews
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s most extensive and forceful written statement against racial injustice. Now available to read online for free from the University of Pennsylvania.
Unknown Binding
Published April 16th 1963 (first published 1963)
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Rowena
A link is provided here for anyone who would like to read this letter: http://www.wuhsd.org/cms/lib/CA010002...


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 t
...more
Cheryl
April 16, 1963

"Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,
Martin Luther King Jr.
Debbie "DJ" Wilson
The perfect day to read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's address to the eight white clergymen who called his activities in Birmingham "unwise & untimely. Dr. King has an extraordinary ability with words be they in speaking or writing. This impassioned response is one I will not forget. I do find it terribly sad that we are still have so far to go. While I found myself writing down many of his words, one caught my eye "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolut ...more
Teresa
I don't normally read something based on the day it is, but today's page of my new book-a-day calendar was for Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation and my calendar says the letter "would take its place among works by Thoreau and Lincoln as a signpost of moral argument".

Well, then and there I decided I needed to read it. The letter holds many, many quotable lines (and, sadly, relevance for today) but instead of taking tho
...more
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 (
...more
Lizzie
I read this for the first time as a whole this past MLK Day. A few amazing things struck me: I love how Dr. King starts off and then ends with a whole bit about how he usually is too damn busy to deal with the haters, but since these haters put him in jail he has time to write a really long letter. He also acknowledges in fairly humorous way how long this letter is: "Never before have I written a letter this long -- or should I say a book? ". It is of no surprise to anyone but the writing is ama ...more
Hadrian
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.
Leslie
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.
Dan
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
Dijon Chiasson
I wanted to read something special for my 800th book, and this certainly meets that definition.

How can I give this anything less than 5 stars? If I ever compile a library of mandatory reading for my future children (as I intend to do), this will be included.

I would highly recommend MLK's entire autobiography (which includes this letter), but at the very least, read "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" online for free:

http://www.wuhsd.org/cms/lib/CA010002...

Scott
Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” is one of the purest and utmost examples of how powerful the written word truly is. King summarizes how he was able to write this long letter at the end, apologizing for the length saying, “I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?” The letter is ...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
Steven
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
Ben
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
...more
Regan
A beautiful, brief explanation of the reasons and justifications for civil protest that's just as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. It's hard to know how I got this far in life without this having been required reading somewhere. It won't take longer than your commute to listen to this beautifully read audio edition.There's just no reason you shouldn't read this!
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
...more
Cathleen
audiobook note: Dion Graham brings out the Reverend in Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., calling on powerful tones, effective pauses, and inspiring speech cadence to reflect King's singular balance of wisdom, passion, eloquence, and conviction.
Jarrett L. Rineer
What a way to clearly communicate a difference in opinion!
Krystl Louwagie
Well, come on. What bad things can you really say about this?
Omar
This is truly a masterpiece.
Ramesh Kurup
Letter from the Birmingham Jail, also a chapter in Martin Luther Kings Jr.'s "Why We Can't Wait" written in 1964. King, in responding to published statement by eight Alabama ministers. The ministers were concerned about his activities in Birmingham and did not want "outsiders" agitating a turbulent situation.
The Letter is brilliant and eloquent, demonstrating the need for immediate direct action against the oppressive system keeping down Negroes since Emancipation. King also calls out White m
...more
Charlene
One only need to take out references to segregation to realize that too many things remain the same. With the single exception to segregation, and especially when it comes to law enforcement and the justice system, this letter is as relevant today as it was in 1963. That is not ok. We can and must do better.

In Letter from Birmingham Jail, MLK lays out the problem of inequality in a beautiful, powerful, and extremely clear open letter. He reminds the reader that injustice anywhere in a threat to
...more
S. K. Pentecost
Jan 25, 2015 S. K. Pentecost rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to S. K. by: Billy Roper
Holy crap! First Martin Luther King Jr. I've read. It it now self evident why this man got his own day. It wasn't just for dying. Below are nuggets from the letter that stuck out to me. A dead man made me tear up tonight.

it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingn
...more
Yonnibardavi
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.
KT 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
...more
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.
Jeffrey
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.
Kate
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.
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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 I Have a Dream / Letter from Birmingham Jail Strength to Love

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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.” 65 likes
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” 50 likes
More quotes…