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A Cry for Equality in Martin Luther King Jr's Letter from Birmingham

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“When you believe in something, fight for it. And when you see injustice, fight harder than you’ve ever fought before” (Brad Meltzer). In the essay, “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. uses personal experience, people of the past, and events from the past to strengthen his argument for the need of equality and peace for the African American community during a civil rights movement in the South. In his essay to the community regarding the discrimination and poor treatment of the people of color, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is attempting to create peace and an understanding in order to alleviate racial prejudice.

In the middle of his essay, King attempts to illustrate a picture of the lives of African Americans and the struggles they go through on a daily basis hoping that the readers get an understanding of what it is like. An example of this is when he states, “ Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’ … when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading ‘white’ and ‘colored’; harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience”(king 7-8). This shows the empathy and compassion Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is trying to get the readers perceive. In addition to this, King wants people to understand the hardship and frustration they face daily.

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Later in his essay, King is presenting to the reader that the laws are not equal with the intention of comparing the past to the present. This is shown when he states, “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ … It was illegal to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers”. Many colored people were disclosed to many places that include restaurants, stores, amusement parks, and even basic needs like restrooms and fountains. Many understand that what happened in Germany was unlawful and corrupt, but are blinded to the fact that what they were experiencing is just as bad as what Dr. King mentions.

By appealing to the emotions of the clergymen and demonstrating logic and authority, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. attempts to gain freedom and equality from discrimination of the laws and basic necessities. In addition to this he attempts to achieve peace from the ongoing violence for those of color. Although King has gone through difficulties growing up as a colored man, he uses his powerful words rather than violence to prove his point.


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