Some have asked, "Why didn't you give the new administration time to act?" I guess I should have realized that few members of a race that has oppressed another race can understand or appreciate the deep groans and passionate yearnings of those that have been oppressed, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent, and determined action. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. But since I feel that you are men of genuine goodwill and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms. You may well ask, “Why direct action, why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice, and that when they fail to do this they become dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty. If I have said anything in this letter that is an understatement of the truth and is indicative of my having a patience that makes me patient with anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me. Soon after, eight clergymen wrote a letter entitled, “A Call for Unity,” which was addressed to King. They are still all too small in quantity, but they are big in quality. We have some eighty-five affiliate organizations all across the South--one being the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. All comments are moderated and must be civil, concise, and constructive to the conversation. You spoke of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. I really need help with this. Now, what is the difference between the two? And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble-rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who are working through the channels of nonviolent direct action and refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes, out of frustration and despair, will seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies, a development that will lead inevitably to a frightening racial nightmare. We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our God-given and constitutional rights. Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. From the Birmingham jail, where he was imprisoned as a participant in nonviolent demonstrations against segregation, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote the letter which follows.It was his response to a public statement of concern and caution issued by eight white religious leaders of the South. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. Yes, these questions are still in my mind. But he will not see this without pressure from the devotees of civil rights. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was an American Christian minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. One is a force of complacency made up of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, have been so completely drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation, and, of a few Negroes in the middle class who, because of a degree of academic and economic security, and because at points they profit by segregation, have unconsciously become insensitive to the problems of the masses. If I sought to answer all of the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. This “wait” has almost always meant “never.” It has been a tranquilizing thalidomide, relieving the emotional stress for a moment, only to give birth to an ill-formed infant of frustration. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. In your statement you asserted that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. Letter from a Birmingham Jail. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority, and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. But I am sorry that your statement did not express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being. When we discovered that Mr. Conner was in the runoff, we decided again to postpone action so that the demonstration could not be used to cloud the issues. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. One is a force of complacency made up of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, have been so completely drained of self-respect and a sense of “somebodyness” that they have adjusted to segregation, and, on the other hand, of a few Negroes in the middle class who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because at points they profit by segregation, have unconsciously become insensitive to the problems of the masses. # MondayMOTOvation # MartinLutherKing Letter From A Birmingham Jail circa 1963: We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. The featured image is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth we were here. Then it occurred to us that the March election was ahead and so we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. The contemporary church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. "; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tip-toe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.
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