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

(1963)

Impact

King's “Letter from Birmingham Jail” had no direct effect on his Birmingham campaign, since most issues were resolved prior to its publication. The eight white clergymen felt that King had singled them out unfairly. For the rest of their lives they would be known as the men who publicly chastised King. As the letter reached a larger audience, support for civil rights legislation began to swell. Liberal white religious organizations, especially the National Council of Churches, responded by unequivocally endorsing the movement's goals. Religious groups played a critical role in lobbying Congress on behalf of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. When King called upon church leaders to join him for the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, hundreds of ministers, rabbis, priests, and nuns came to Alabama to participate in the protest. Their consciences no doubt had been pricked by King's letter.

King's “Letter from Birmingham Jail” has been hailed as the most important written...

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Martin Luther King, Jr. (Library of Congress)

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