Martin Luther King Junior’s “letter from Birmingham Jail” was the reflection upon protest against unjust laws was established against him and his fellow men. Throughout his letter he uses many great philosophers and historical events to justify his own protest to be necessary to do what’s right. King was the leader of civil-rights group that supported protest against traditional views of the society and unjust laws established in the era.” In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action.” ( Taylor)
In his letter from Birmingham Jail King states: “It was illegal to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s anti-religious laws” (King, 6). Here in this excerpt shows that King encourages protest because in some extreme circumstances becomes necessary, be it in Hitler’s Germany, a Communist country, or any situation in which injustices are occurring. In the end of the sentence King openly admits that he would protest against established laws or traditions by all means necessary because they favor the unjust.
The letter was written to his fellow clergymen to explain his prior actions and to attempt justified and appropriate for the situation. He expressed that he exhausted every other option to justify them. In the letter he tried to explain to the clergy that his actions although illegal were possible and direct action was the only available option left, which could make a difference.
“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. 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”. Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? (King, 5). Throughout history, there have been many unjust laws.
Many people follow laws just because they are laws. Sometimes people don’t even agree with a law, but they go along because it’s in society acceptable or because it’s just the law. I think that by writing the letter, and putting forward the definition, King is challenging his readers to consider whether or not a law is just. If a law is unjust, it is the responsibility of the people to get it overturned. A society should not live with an unjust law. By choosing to go against law it shows that king primarily a teleological thinker.
In conclusion, King wrote “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” for the purpose of making his audience realize that they are not carrying out our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence which is the United States was founded upon. King only wants what should be granted to all United States citizens, this being freedom, justice, and equality. He is saying he is in jail for only doing what is right, by trying to achieve what is right through non-violence and the fact that he is in jail is unjust, does not support equality, and freedom.
Taylor, Justin.” Between Two Worlds. Martin-luther-king-jr-letter-from-birmingham-jail” http://thegospelcoalition.org/. 23 Jan. 2013.