King was arrested in 1963 for protesting the treatment of blacks in Birmingham Credit: Public Domain photo

Why read Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter From A Birmingham Jail?” Why read a letter that was written decades ago in a cold jail cell by a man who has been dead for almost forty years? The answer is simple. Dr. King wrote this eloquent and profound letter while confined in a Birmingham city jail. In this letter responding to criticism from his fellow clergymen, Dr. King explains to the world why he has gone about his activities the way he has. His fellow clergymen called his activities “unwise and untimely” and questioned his methods and motivations.

This letter’s purpose was to explain to people why he chose to implement his direct-action, non-violent protests at that time and why he could not wait. King says, “We have waited for more that 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet like speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter.” Dr. King believed that his people had waited long enough for justice and equality. Dr. King was never idle and did not wait for justice to be handed to him. He was assertive and impatient when it came to the freedom of his people.

Today, we can learn much from the ideals presented by Dr. King and his letter from a Birmingham jail. We too must be assertive and impatient about our wants and our needs. Achieving justice should be part of every individuals life for generations to come. Injustices are still present in today’s world and will continue to be present as long as human beings inhabit this earth. The injustices that Dr. King encountered in his life time are still present in this country today. In Dr. King’s time, the injustices of segregation and racism were definitely more obvious.

The oppressor was as clear as black and white. The injustices that we as a people face today in this country are much more nebulous and more subtle, but they do exist. Segregation and racism are, possibly, as alive today as in Dr. King’s time. It may even be present in your church, in your school, or around your community without you even realizing it. This is the reason why it is important for us to study Dr. King’s life and works. The fact that injustices are still present today should motivate each of us to transform the status quo. It is our responsibility today to carry on Dr. King’s legacy so that we can continue to progress in a way that will lead to the overall progress and betterment of our world.

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