Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

(1963)

Written in April 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” delivered an important statement on civil rights and civil disobedience. The 1963 racial crisis in Birmingham, Alabama, was a critical turning point in the struggle for African American civil rights. Although King's letter was not published until after the Birmingham crisis was resolved, it is widely regarded as the most important written document of the modern civil rights movement and a classic text on civil disobedience.

In Birmingham, nonviolent protestors led by King faced determined opposition from hard-core segregationists. King and his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), needed a victory to sustain the momentum of their movement. The integration of downtown stores and lunch counters was the primary focus of SCLC's “Project C”—the “C” stood for confrontation. Demonstrations began one day after a new city government was elected. Many observers criticized King...

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Martin Luther King, Jr. (Library of Congress)

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