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5 More Cities Allowing Students to Read the Letter from a Birmingham Jail for Free

January 16, 2015

This Friday in 2015 before the USA Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, news sources in America are reporting the following:

What’s more, for all of my BLT co-bloggers, I would just like to announce also that students in cities around the world are now allowed to read The Letter from a Birmingham Jail published widely before the march on Selma also “for free” on Monday, when students across the States of America will neither be segregated nor integrated in schools. Here are two previews:

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.”

But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim;

when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters;

when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society;

when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people;

King-and-Daughter

 

when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”;

Martin Luther King Jr. and Two of His Children

 

when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you;

family.king

 

when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”;

mlkfam

 

when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”;

when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments;

when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you [white rabbis and white Christian clergy] can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern.

Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws.

funeral

One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

and

I wish you [white rabbis and white Christian clergymen] had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.”

Martin Luther King Escorting ChildrenMLK-walks-Mississippi-Children

They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

 

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 16, 2015 7:34 am

    For any student who doesn’t want to wait until Monday:

    http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

  2. January 16, 2015 9:47 am

    Reblogged this on LAnthony, Mystery Author and commented:
    Happy MLK Day

  3. January 18, 2015 10:49 pm

    Reading these excerpts, the word that came to mind was “convicted”, as in one’s conscience being convicted.

    Then I wondered whether an examination of conscience regarding the structural sin of racism could be (or already has been?) constructed from MLK’s texts or other texts from the Civil Rights movement.

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