Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Letter from Birmingham Jail” as Want to Read:
Letter from Birmingham Jail
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Letter from Birmingham Jail

4.64  ·  Rating details ·  2,913 Ratings  ·  221 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
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Letter from Birmingham Jail, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Letter from Birmingham Jail

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 t
Iris P

Letter from Birmingham Jail

 photo MLK_zpswn4dskyq.jpg
Love this picture of MLK smiling!

Until now I had only read the most famous quotes of MLK's Letter from Birmingham Jail but I had never taken the time to read the full text.

To many, along with his "I Have A Dream" speech, this letter represents King's most relevant and impactful public statement, because it came at a crucial time when both he and the Civil Rights Movement were being heavily criticized and facing lots of pressure from both the political left and the ri
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This "Birmingham jail" letter by MLK, Jr. and the UN Declaration of Human Rights are the only two "required readings" across all sections of Global Ethics at my college. Today we can recall the now famous lines: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny." The full letter is here:

I got a MLK, Jr. Award for my anti-racism work with largely "White on White
Debbie "DJ"
Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
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 (
Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Dany Burns
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads
This letter is so important and still reads to be so true and so relevant. I was assigned this for school (as well as on civil disobedience which I will be reading next) though I have read it before. It's also especially relevant because yesterday I marched in the women's march in Atlanta. I live in the 5th district in Atlanta and John Lewis is my congressman (my district is doing just fine,by the way. Don't believe everything you read in a tweet). He spoke at the march yesterday and told all of ...more
Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-novels

How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? 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. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the so
Powerful, exemplary prose. I'm moved with every word.
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
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.
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Every bit as relevant today as it was then. I wish it hadn't taken me so long to read this--it is *so* good.

This is available on Hoopla. Dion Graham's cadence does justice to the intonation of Dr. King.
May 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone should read this at least once.
Dan Gorman
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dr. King lays out his case for public protests. Moderation for the sake of calming white segregationists is wrong. The church that King admires is one that takes its message to the streets and does not compromise — in short, a church that emulates the first apostles. An American classic.
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone must read.
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Friends sent me a copy of this pamphlet, and I waited until today to read it. I wish I could say that this was not my first time reading it, but it was, and I regret that. The edition I have (from The Trinity Forum) has a foreword that helped me gain context for the writing of this letter. I got a dim view of it from reaching the March trilogy of graphic novels by John Lewis, but it was a good reminder that MLK was literally in jail, and he was responding to other religious leaders who were exho ...more
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Every person on the planet.
Powerful. Searing. Eloquent. Masterful. The moral argument of our time.
Jan 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
There are many powerful arguments in this letter, and they are still meaningful to us today. Here's a few quotes that I think are particularly apt for us:

"We must come to see... that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." "

"First, I must confess that over the past 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 his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the K
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 Christopher 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 cle ...more
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This has always been my favorite piece of Dr. King's. I'm always amazed that people haven't read it even though they might be capable of reciting the Dream speech. On MLK day, I pull out a copy of the Letter and silently read it to myself. This is the first year I didn't do that. It feels odd to break my own tradition. I confess to being too depressed over the Inauguration to risk reading it. Dr. King inspires hope and I've been without it since the election. I know I'll recover after Friday. Ju ...more
I wanted to read something special for my 800th book, and this certainly meets that definition.

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:

Edith Hope
Feb 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
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.
Jan 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Powerful and Deep!

"and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."

"As T.J Eliot has said: The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."
I think that whenever I'm feeling a bit down about the activist work that I do, I'm just going to re-listen to this over and over for inspiration.
Jen Quintanilla
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads
Is this required reading? Somehow I made it this far in life without reading this and I'm embarrassed. This SHOULD be required reading because it is still so relevant and so many of Dr. King's frustrations are still valid in today's struggle.
May 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stop what you are doing and read this now. You will think he is talking about this very moment. If you think you know who MLK was and you have not read this, you don't really know him. Again, read this. NOW. Find a copy online if you don't have it handy in book form.
Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Madison Mega-Mara...: Letter from a Birmingham Jail 1 5 Jul 14, 2013 07:18AM  
  • Let Me Stand Alone: The Journals of Rachel Corrie
  • While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement
  • Torn from Troy (Odyssey of a Slave #1)
  • The Authoritarians
  • The Strange Career of Jim Crow
  • Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes/Book 2
  • The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights
  • The Celebrated Jumping Frog and Other Stories
  • Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices
  • Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s
  • Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans
  • A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in America
  • The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial
  • Pinned
  • Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America
  • Irises
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
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....
“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.” 161 likes
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” 85 likes
More quotes…