Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s essay, "Letter from Birmingham Jail,"

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorCollege, Undergraduate February 2008

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s essay, "Letter from Birmingham Jail," answers the charges of eight of his fellow clergyman who labeled his civil rights activities as both "'unwise and untimely'" (153). Although, as a reader, we can detect the anger that King feels towards the accusation, he attempts to answer the charge in a "patient and reasonable" manner (153). For example, he quietly explains that he is in Birmingham "because [he] was invited; because [he has] organizational ties [there]; and because injustice is [there]" (154). More specifically, King asserts the main reason for his presence is because of the inequity manifested; comparing himself to the eighth century prophets who left the area of their birth to convey their '"thus saith the Lord'" greatly outside the confines of their own homes, "so [was he] compelled to carry the gospels of freedom beyond [his] home town" (154). Justice to King is all-important, playing a large part in every aspect of his life that he felt the need to travel forth replacing injustice for justice.

In order to understand King's concept of justice: let us examine his distinctions between just and unjust laws; the danger of the white moderate; and his disappointment with the church.

The distinction between just and unjust laws is key to the understanding of King's concept of justice, for it explains why his acts of civil disobedience are moral acts. For example, whereas a "just law is a manmade code that squares with the moral law or the law of god," a law that is unjust "is out of harmony with the moral law"(158). In other words, a law--if just--should not constitute to the demeaning of a person because of their race, religion, or creed. It therefore follows that "all segregation statutes are unjust because segregation...



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