Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's "Letter from Birmingham jail"

Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy (background) leave Birmingham City Jail following their release on April 20, 1963, after eight days of imprisonment. (Associated Press)


The Atlantic reports--Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King wrote this landmark missive. It was republished several months later in The Atlantic.

King's famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail," published in The Atlantic as "The Negro Is Your Brother," was written in response to a public statement of concern and caution issued by eight white religious leaders of the South. It stands as one of the classic documents of the civil-rights movement.

"While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all of the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of "outsiders coming in"

I am in Birmingham because injustice is here ...I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. 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. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider ..."

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