Letter From Birmingham Jail Themes
The Interrelatedness of All Mankind A central premise of King’s nonviolence is that all human beings are related to each other by virtue of their place on the Earth and their shared status as people in a system King thinks was produced by God. Although his belief in the interrelatedness of all humankind is based on Christianity, King uses the principle to legitimize his work in Alabama, to make the case for the Civil Rights Motion as a nationwide motion, and to show that its methods are appropriate actions to longstanding oppression.
King was a native of Atlanta, Georgia, where he helped to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and was a minister in Montgomery, Alabama, when he came to prominence in the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout the late 1950s and up till his death in 1968, he never restricted his activism to his home neighborhood. Instead, King took as his example the early Christians he cites in “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” who took their message abroad.
King’s comments in this specific essay underscore a concept of American and African-American identity that is nationwide instead of local, specifically when he declares, “I can not sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what takes place in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (86 ). King’s belief in this connection ultimately encompasses international connections also. He discusses a number of times that the demonstrations in Birmingham and other parts of the South must be comprehended in the wider context of decolonization in African nations.
By reimagining each human being as a citizen of a country andas a citizen of the world, King takes an ethical basis for advocacy that pushes versus the argument that injustice is simply a regional issue that can only be fixed by the communities in which injustice occurs. Politics and the Church Although the United States enshrined the separation in between religion and politics in its foundational documents, religious beliefs has always been a powerful force in society. King, a Baptist minister with an advanced degree in theology, uses his faith as the foundation for his politics.
“Letter from Birmingham Prison,” which is directed at both a local audience of ministers and a national audience, describes in specific detail that the protest movement remains in the custom ofearly Christian evangelism. For instance, he describes the protestors who sat in at lunch counters as “disinherited kids of God” who “remained in truth defending what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian [sic] heritage”( 111 ). King’s point of view on the link in between the church and politics also shows the more particular cultural context of the church in African-American culture and history.
The black church functioned as an area for political organization in the absence of public and legally-sanctioned political participation for African-Americans for much of American history. Black churches played an important function in arranging African-Americans and supplying material, financial, and spiritual support throughout the Civil Rights Movement. While the early Christian and modern-day black church act as sources of a dynamic tradition of political activism, the mainline churches represented by the Alabama clergymen presenta disappointing contrast, in King’s viewpoint.
These churches counseled complacency or even active opposition to the Civil liberty Movement. While King acknowledges that not all clergymen sat on the sidelines, he takes the modern-day church to task for failing to measure up to the example of the early Christians. Nonviolent Direct Action versus Violence Nonviolent direct action is a type of advocacy that seeks to create conditions that directly press the power structure to alter or to make clear for a larger audience that the power structure is participated in injustice that should not be allowed to stand.
As a technique, nonviolent direct action is in agreement with King’s Christianity and his rejection of black nationalism. King’s belief in nonviolence comes from the precedent of the early Christian church and an American custom of civil disobedience. King points out Jesus and early Christians like the Apostle Paul as people whose nonviolence and attacks on the status quo stemmed from their Christian convictions.
There is likewise an American protest custom that is nonviolent, and King cites the Boston Tea Party, for instance, as simply among numerous nonviolent means that early Americans utilized to object injustice. King likewise argues that nonviolence can offer an useful outlet for the aggravation and anger African-Americans experience after centuries of oppression. King commemorates the heroism of African-American protestors, specifically their “superb nerve [and] willingness to suffer and their incredible discipline in the midst of great justification” (110 ).
This heroism counters unfavorable stereotypes and reveals that black embrace of nonviolence is more suitable to the alternative of violence. It is essential to understand that at this minute, nonviolent direct action was just one of numerous possible reactions to the continued injustice of African-Americans. Other groups advocated for violence or armed resistance during the 1960s, while some figures argued for a more steady technique to change due to the fact that of their fear of civil disorder.
Malcolm X, then a member of the Country of Islam, for instance, argued for black separation from whites and armed resistance when attacked. King identified such beliefs as examples of the “bitterness and hatred” that would end strongly if other channels for constructive change were not allowed. While King’s accept of nonviolence reflects his belief in Christianity, it outgrows pragmatic issues, such as its capability to enhance representations of African-American identity and his belief that violence has actually not historically worked in protecting modification.