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Letter from Birmingham Jail

4.55  ·  Rating details ·  1,607 ratings  ·  179 reviews
There is an alternate edition published under ISBN13: 9780062509550.

'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'

This landmark missive from one of the greatest activists in history calls for direct, non-violent resistance in the fight against racism, and reflects on the healing power of love.

This edition also contains the sermon 'The Three Dimensions of a Com
Paperback, 54 pages
Published February 22nd 2018 by Penguin Classics (first published April 16th 1963)
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Sean Barrs
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
The fact that a man such as Martin Luther King spent time in prison demonstrates the fundamental wrongness that permeates humanity.

Laws are there to protect people, though which people are they protecting? MLK understood that the laws of society are not necessarily true laws, or what he saw as god’s laws, and he knew that they needed to be fought and changed for the betterment of mankind. His rhetoric is honest, compassionate and full of purpose.


King’s word were powerful and heroic. Despite th
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book has two parts: one is the one named on the cover, the other one is "The Three Dimensions Of A Complete Life". The first focuses on defending direct, non-violent resistance of racism, written on the margins of a newspaper in 1963; the other is a sermon delivered in Chicago, April 1967, a recording that is cut short by some interruption, but that point is well towards the end, so not much was left to say in it anyway.

On the first part: where MLK talks of underlying reasons for demonstrat
Alice Lippart
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
Such an important book and an absolute must-read!
Olivia-Savannah  Roach
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Letter from Birmingham Jail was a text I’d studied many a time in class and referred to. But I’d never read it in completion and I’m glad I did. Basically, it shows me that MLK has mastered the art of responding to criticism. His points are thought out, precise and well developed. I couldn’t, and didn’t, disagree with a single word written. But it’s in the second part of this little classic that I was blown away.

The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life is one of the few essays I would tell EV
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received the wonderful boxed collection of the new Penguin Moderns series for my birthday, and have decided to read and review them in order. The first book in the collection, and therefore my first review, is black rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter From Birmingham Jail. The blurb states that this 'landmark missive from one of the greatest activists in history calls for direct, non-violent resistance in the fight against racism, and reflects on the healing power of love.' Despite ...more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What else can be said about this stirring, poignant, provocative letter, written in the margins of a newspaper at the height of America's most successful mass movement for equality? Reading it aloud to my children this past MLK Day, I was struck by how many lines have become immortalized:

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

"Justice too long delayed is justice denied."

"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."

The section in whi
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: penguin-modern
The first half of this is a compelling piece of writing of a man looking for equality and the right way to achieve those goals.

Very powerful writing.

The backup feature, "The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life" is dull and pulled only a small amount of emotional involevment. A stark contrast to the title piece.
Here I am, well over fifty years after his time, and I felt goosebumps just by reading MLK's words. Even after so much hate thrown upon him, he showed only love. Fifty years after he's gone, his legacy shone on. Great man.

I'm overjoyed I chose this book to start the year 2019.

Complete review:
Nabilah Firdaus
One of the best pieces of literature written in American history that represents the civil rights movement. It's amazing how much restraint, hope and resolve these people had. A must read for everyone.

Rest in peace, Martin Luther King.
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.[...] For years now I have heard the word "Wait!"[...] This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

Letter from Birmingham Jail is a powerful defence of nonviolent resistance.
I would highly recommend Leynes' review of a joint edition of Letter from Birming
André Oliveira
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So inspiring!
Frank-Intergalactic Bookdragon
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: nonfiction, classics
"the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice, or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?"

I'm going try to keep this review short because it's a short book (or novella?) I also think you should just do yourself a favor and read this, it shouldn't take too long unless like me you annotate it. (I read this for school and
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
The short book consists of 2 parts, the first is the letter as the title suggests, a letter written by MLK jr while he was held in Birmingham jail for his protest activities. It is a really erudite piece of literary work wherein he addresses the clergyman who had criticised the methods employed by him and other protestors. He puts across his points beautifully and succinctly, does not lose his composure despite being in a position of obvious disadvantage and with his back against the wall, liter ...more
Linton Newton
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
The titular text is brilliant. Written to those who opposed King's non-violent protests, King defends his actions and justifies their causes brilliantly. He does oppose the idea of violent protest on Christian grounds, which I myself do not agree with but his point is well made and certainly defensible.

The other text in this work is a speech on how to live a complete life. This work blends Aristotelian ideas of friendship and the relation of the self with Christian theology. I did not find this
Salam Almahi
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read it. That's all I'm going to say.
ruby healy
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I know such a phrase get's thrown about by critics to the point where it now feels like a shallow and benign compliment, but I don't think I could write an honest review of Dr.King's "Letter From Birmingham Jail" without admitting that I find this book to be an absolute must-read; that every person on this earth has to buy and read the words that Dr. King wrote in the margins of a newspaper while wrongly imprisoned 45 years ago over and over again, until they take his ideas to heart. The book it ...more
Kier Scrivener
"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."

This was incredible. I don't have words, it had no error.

Let him speak for himself:

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere"

"You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into
Atiqah Ghazali
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Letter from Birmingham Jail
by Martin Luther King, Jr
Published by Penguin Classics
Goodread's Rating: 4.53/5
My Rating: 5/5

"Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "Thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just 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 compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town.

Just as Soc
Andreia Marques
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you can't be a pine on the top of a hill
Be a scrub in the valley
The little scrub in the side of the hill,
Be a bush if you can't be a tree.
If you can't be a highway just be a trail
If you can't be the sun be a star;
It isn't by size that you win it fail
Be the best if whatever you are.
Ellie Brown
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading this letter was both haunting and moving at the same time. It's disturbing to be reading the words, possibly intended to be private, of an assassinated man. Yet, these words were from a time when civil war was ripe and black people were segregated - much different to the culture I see around myself today. You transport back in time, to witness MLK sat in his cell writing this letter, and the political chaos surrounding him.

What amazed me was the eloquence and intelligence of this man, wh
Jun 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
I had the need to read this book in times like these. Best quote: „Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.“
Georgina N
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

We must come to see ,with one of our distinguished jurists ,that "justice too long delayed is justice denied".

"There are two types of laws.Just and unjust."

"Segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality."

"Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust on its application ."

One of the books that should be taught at schools.
A must read. Especially now with the election.
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A small sample of King's writings that make his ideas and his personality very clear. These are important essays that need to be remembered and that in many aspect feel very relevant.
Charles Jackson
The Civil Rights era of United States’ history is an important moment for all teachers alike to be knowledgeable about, with a basic understanding of the characters, causes and outcomes. But beyond the historical content, the Civil Rights era offers some profound examples of impassioned persuasive rhetoric that could serve as vegetables for the developing writer. In Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”, he beautifully articulates the challenges of different perspectives amo ...more
“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I ag ...more
Conrad Barwa
A must read, this classic text written by King during his imprisonment in Birmingham Alabama, has lost nothing of its power and eloquence more than 5 decades later. Famous, almost notorious for its castigation of the obstructive role played by white moderates whom King professes to be disappointed in and sees as the main impediment for Black Americans to achieve their civil rights, it is much more than that. While cogent on the jam tomorrow arguments of many white liberal moderates and their adv ...more
Josh Mccoy
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you are a white person wanting to understand the movement & our place in it, start here. This is King’s epistle to a group of faith leaders in Birmingham who had published a public letter saying “not now. This is too fast and causing too much division.”

King slays that argument on the floor of his jail cell. It is an amazing work of American writing that should be required reading in schools right alongside the Declaration of Independence. If we truly believe in freedom for all then surely we
Joshua Lawson
Written from the Birmingham Jail on April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr.'s letter to his fellow white clergymen still rings out across the twenty-first century with prophetic force. I felt the heat from this writing on so many levels, especially in King's call for the Church to recapture the spirit of early Christianity. Fifty-six years later and I'm still not sure where we stand.

"The judgment of God is upon the Church now as never before. If the Church of today does not recapture the sacrifi
Amalia Sanchez
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The first half should be required yearly reading (it is, for me!). The second half feels less relevant to me, as someone who is not religious, but I think you can substitute discussion of religious morals and Christian values with basic humanistic morals and values and the conclusions remain the same.

"As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise.... Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntaril
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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

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“One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” 4 likes
“A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.” 3 likes
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