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

(1963)

Audience

Although the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was nominally addressed to the eight white clergymen who had publicly urged African Americans to curtail their Birmingham demonstrations, King had a much wider audience in mind; his letter was produced for national consumption. Specifically, his letter was intended to answer his critics, especially white liberals who questioned the timing of his decision to initiate sit-ins, pickets, and marches following the electoral defeat of Connor. More generally, King hoped to explain the religious and philosophical foundations of nonviolent, direct action to all who shared his Judeo-Christian beliefs.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. (Library of Congress)

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