The Civil Rights Movement was a social movement which helped put an end to the racial discrimination against African-Americans in the United States. In Birmingham there were non-violent protests such as sit-ins and marches. During one of the marches Martin Luther King Jr. was incarserated in a mass arrest. While in imprisoned Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’. The letter was written in response to a public statement by the Alabama Clergymen condemning MLK’s protest. The statement evoked emotion from MLK and inspired him to write such a response. This is a quote form the statement ‘However, we are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negros citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders. We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely.’ If you were a African-American in the 60’s how would this make you feel? They also go on to call MLK’s acts ‘extreme Should MLK be considered an extremist?
What is an extremist? Is it a derogatory term? Why is there a stigma connected to the term? When people hear the word extremist they usually think of violence, but is violence necessary to be an extremist? Does the word extremist have a negative connotation. An extremist is a person who holds an extreme or fanatical political or religious view point, especially one who resorts to or advocates extreme action. This is the definition of an extremist. As an example of this on page 5 of his letter when MLK talked about how the Negro extremist are ‘full of bitterness, hatred, and advocate for violence’, but how can extremism be viewed as a positive attribute? Martin Luther King Jr. said that it was an honor to be called an extremist on page 6. How could it be an honor to be associated with such a negative title? MLK talks about the attributes of a campaign on page 1 of his letter, he states that there are four steps in a non-violent campaign. 1) Does injustice exist 2) negotiation 3) self purification and 4) direct action. On page 6 MLK says ‘I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action.’ If a person is ignored through these steps what else can one do but take extreme action? How can a person advocate for change when they are being brushed aside and ignored? . Like MLK said on page 6 ‘oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.’ (page 6) Most extremists are molded out of oppression/discrimination. And on page 6 MLK says ‘If repressed emotions are not released in non-violent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history’ (Page 6) There is not much middle ground with extremist. They feel as though the only way change will come is if they take to extreme measures. There are not only violent actions but peaceful action too. There are two different types of extremist, extremist for hate and extremist for love. MLK said that ‘the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremist will we be?’ (Page 6)
Negative Positive Both
Use Fear Use Love Extreme passion
Violence Non-Violent Want change
In extremism there is a very fine line of what is positive and negative. The goals of the extremist are usually the deciding factor of whether they are for the good or for the bad. But do the ends justify the means? What makes a person an extremist is the actions they do to achieve their goals. If those actions are deliberately harmful then it is hard for an extremist to be looked at in a good light. Malcom X is an example of an extremist who thought that if blacks could not gain rights such as voting then they should