Letter From Birmingham: Why We Can’t Wait

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In a society where there are oppressed, there are also the other side who feel they are not being oppressed at all. Therefore, for the oppressed, what they perceive as actions done for the future greater good, is extremely different from the unoppressed view. From the “Birmingham letter” by martin Luther King Jr in 1963, an action done so innocently for the benefit of achieving ones right turns out to seen as a really controversial issue that sparks up a whole debate and seen as terribly wrong by the other individuals in the same society.

During this time in period, Alabama was experiencing great extents of racism. The supreme court had passed a law in 1954 that castigated the segregation of public schools, public toilets and public restaurants. But years later it was still happening. It is these kinds of happenings that made martin Luther and other activists take to the streets and start the project c campaign, famously known as ‘The Birmingham ‘campaign. This marked the ultimate start of City-hall marches, counter sit-in during lunch and downtown boycott to protest against the constant segregation laws experienced in the city.

This peaceful demonstration that went on for almost a month was met with violent attacks from the police. Police dogs and high-pressure horses were released onto the peaceful protestants, women and children alike. This protest was among the greatest protests that made quite an impact on the American civil rights movements and their century long fight to ‘freedom’

Following these events, eight clergy men took it upon themselves to issue a public statement that was indirectly sending a message to Martin Luther; “a call for unity”. They considered the state of Alabama, Birmingham, their ‘town’ and they saw Luther as an outsider who was out to disrupt, they peace, common sense, law and order. Any racial problems faced in Alabama should not be of his concern at all. They saw the peaceful demonstrations as unwise, uncalled for, and quite untimely. “We further strongly urge our own Negro community to withdraw support from these demonstrations,” (King.1992) is what they wrote. This statement is what prompted Luther to respond since he rarely gave responses to people who criticized his civil rights activism. This statement was the exact type if injustice that he was protesting against. He wanted to eradicate the, people in power hijacking what should be common sense to all and making them common to only themselves since they are in power. He was therefore compelled to respond by writing the ‘Birmingham letter’ and addressing these eight clergy men publicly.

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What followed ‘the Birmingham’ campaign in May 1963 was a victory that saw the abolition of ‘white only’ and ‘black only’ sings from most of the drinking joints, restaurants and rest room in Birmingham and the demonstrators who were jailed were released. Over the next few months desegregation process was still undergoing and the segregationists didn’t take it well since they launched attacks on the black community like the bombing that killed four girls in the Baptist church.

Mr. Luther was a man tired of waiting on a future that will not come. He had realized to achieve the future they have always yearned for; they were the ones to make the difference (Kern-Foxworth.1992). They needed to create they wanted to see. In his letter Luther is of the idea that no one living anywhere in the united states should be considered an outsider. Provincial logistics should not stop African American from fighting for any injustice done anywhere within the united states, since the injustice that will happen anywhere within the states will ultimately cause mutual injustice everywhere in the states. This makes it evident that everyone was to be mutually responsible in the fight against segregation without having to be brainwashed into believing that it is not in their province that the injustice is happening or into postponing the fight for justice any further.

For many years, after the supreme court passed the law castigating segregation, nothing changed much since the segregationist never obeyed the rule. Black people waited for years hoping that things will ultimately change in the long run, however, when they had the last piece of patience, they had in them, a rebellion started. Luther categorically brings to the clergy men’s attention on how long they have waited for the fulfillment of the promises made and how the white men power structure was a contributing factor to the protests.

In the courts, blacks have taken their cases to be solved against white men. These cases have been dragged for so long and many of them went unsolved. This unjust treatment is why blacks could not afford to wait any longer just to achieve nothing in return. Black leaders were expected to engage and first sought out issues with the city fathers before proceeding to do anything, the city fathers however, always refused to engage or gave a promise to engage and failed to in negotiations giving them more reason to stop waiting and take action.

The African American community in the united states of America, has made several steps in their fight against racism (Johnson.2007). It is through taking action and coming out in large numbers, ready and willing to fight for what they believe in that saw America have a first black president. Barrack Obama made it to the white house because blacks knew this is what they have been fighting for, and they had waited long enough in able to achieve this. However, it is not in totality that one can say that there is no racism still experienced in the US even after having a black man rule the country for two terms straight. African Americans are still being brutalized by the police in the streets every day. Like the case of Antwon Rose Jr, a 17-year-old, unarmed black male man was killed in Pittsburgh by a police officer as he was fleeing from a car that was stopped by a police officer (Nicholson‐Crotty.et al 2017). It is therefore important for the African American community not to get comfortable, but still keep the resilience in fighting for their rights and what they believe in, giving no one authority to infringe on their rights or postponed the fight for their right to a later period.


  1. King Jr, M. L. (1992). Letter from Birmingham jail. UC Davis L. Rev., 26, 835.
  2. Kern-Foxworth, M. (1992). Martin Luther King Jr.: Minister, civil rights activist, and public opinion leader. Public Relations Review, 18(3), 287-296.
  3. Johnson, D. (2007). Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 Birmingham campaign as image event. Rhetoric & Public Affairs, 10(1), 1-25.
  4. Nicholson‐Crotty, S., Nicholson‐Crotty, J., & Fernandez, S. (2017). Will more black cops matter? Officer race and police‐involved homicides of black citizens. Public Administration Review, 77(2), 206-216.
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Letter From Birmingham: Why We Can’t Wait. (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/letter-from-birmingham-why-we-cant-wait/
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