Themes And Ideas In Letter From Birmingham Jail

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In “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he writes to the clergymen of Birmingham. Dr. King urged the clergymen that by being quiet and doing nothing is worse than outright opposal. He wrote mainly on the thoughts of how the people of color are affected by the treatment of the white people in the city, how pushing a submissive-pointed rhetoric is harmful and can lead to further violence, and how he was disappointed that his fellow men of faith had not stepped in to help those who needed it.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in Birmingham to provide aid to the people of color who were being pushed around and who were leaning on false promises that were easily broken. At the time of Dr. King arrived in Birmingham to help, people of color who owned stores were fighting for a more equal representation of their stores. They no longer wanted signage and markings to show that their stores were black- or white-only stores. The association of store owners who they had made their plea to promised that they would work toward more equality, however that promise kept getting tabled, and never came to fruition.

The people were tired of being quiet and wishing for change, and they asked Dr. King for help as he had experience with sit-ins, marches, and other forms of peaceful protest. They were going to hold the protest around the busiest shopping time, however an election of city officials was also happening around that time and they wanted to make sure that important topics that would also affect them were not glossed over in favor of bringing light to their protest.

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Dr. King noticed that many of the issues that existed in Birmingham existed everywhere. People were unwilling to step out of their comfort zone and stuck with the status quo because it was easier than standing up and speaking out. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in response to this idea,“Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Another thing he noted in the letter was that “oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever,” and that eventually the people of color who are sick of playing nice and by the rules would be up in arms and revolt. He realized that there is only so much a person can take before losing their inhibition and strength, which might lead them to more violent reactions.

Dr. Martin Luther King wrote to the clergymen and told them that he was disappointed with the shiftlessness of them and their parishes. He believed that the clergymen could have brought the parishes to a point to convince them to stand with the people of color who were being stepped on and fight against segregation and unfairness in Birmingham. Dr. King compares the beginnings of Christianity to the plight of the Black community, and comments on how Christians have become the very thing that was in their way in the beginning.

In conclusion, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote to his fellow clergymen, still with love in his heart and well wishes to his fellow man, but urging them to fight alongside the people in the Black community, as doing nothing is worse than doing something in the wrong direction.

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Themes And Ideas In Letter From Birmingham Jail. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 19, 2024, from
“Themes And Ideas In Letter From Birmingham Jail.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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