Letter From Birmingham Jail Essay Examples and Topics

Essay Examples
Essay Topics
Brief overview

16 April 1963


Birmingham, Alabama

Main ideas

King, who was arrested on April 12, was subjected to unusually cruel conditions in jail. He read a letter called “A Call for Unity” in a smuggled newspaper, and got inspired to write his open letter as a response.


Martin Luther King Jr. wrote this open letter to inspire people to take direct action against unjust laws. The letter became an important element of the American Civil Rights Movement.The Birmingham campaign, which started in April 1963, was nonviolent and based on sit-ins and coordinated marches against racism and racial segregation.


The letter was written on newspaper margins and other scraps of paper. The pastor Wyatt Tee Walker and his secretary put the puzzle together. The letter was published in Liberation in June 1963.

Key Quotes
  • “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
  • “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Arguments For

This letter is a deep and powerful meditation on racial discrimination. Martin Luther King Jr.wrote an impactful and relevant public statement, which served as a guidance of an entire movement.

Arguments Against

The letter is so powerful that it might be challenging for students to discuss it in a unique way.

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