Imagine being in a local restaurant and hearing someone using the N word obnoxiously loud. In this day and age such an action would be appalling and generally looked down on by most of society, but it’s not unheard of. Seventy years ago though, this was a common practice and more than socially acceptable by the white population. This was a time in our history when African American people had to sit in the back of buses, and weren’t even welcome in local restaurants. They faced severe oppression and racism, being denied their rights as human beings on a daily basis. Slavery may had been abolished, but blacks were nowhere near close to being looked at as equal to the white population, especially in the south. This was a time when hero’s such as Rosa Parks and others decided to take a stand and defend themselves, demanding to be heard and demanding to bring about a change. This was the age of Martin Luther King, one of the innovative leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. He was a minister and firmly believed in nonviolent protests to fight the black oppression that was occurring. In his endeavors to participate in these protests he found himself in Birmingham, in a protest against police chief, Bull Conner, who was failing to enforce laws of integration(Walsh and Asch). During this protest he was arrested and landed in the Birmingham Jail, where he learned of a letter that was written to him from eight clergy members. In response to this letter, Martin Luther King composed a letter back in which he described, in depth, him and his fellow activists goals in promoting nonviolent protests in attempt to bring change to the state of the current injustice to African Americans.
To start off his letter king addresses how the clergy men pointed out that the protests were not something that should be happening in the streets but should rather be handled in the courts, and among their own people, not an outsider. The protests that they were referring to were events such as a large groups of blacks going into a dinner and sitting down at the counters that only whites were permitted to sit at. The police would come in to arrest them and take them out but another wave of them would just sit down (Ain’t Scared of Your Jails). Kings response to their accusation of him being an outsider and that the problem should be handled in a court was brilliant, he stated that, “I cannot sit idly in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (King 157). King is explaining his feelings that what happens in one part of the United States has an effect on the whole of the country. Just because things are not so bad for blacks in one part of the country does not mean that it’s okay for them in other parts, and it also doesn’t mean that it will stay that way for them. If there is extreme racism going on in one state and it comes to the point of being acceptable, it could spread into other states. The blacks from all states must band together to make a change, because what is happening in one state can eventually effect the whole country. King feels it important to band together and make a statement for everyone to see, even if it’s not in his own backyard because on this social scale they all share the same backyard.
King next discourses the clergymen’s accusation of violence in their protests. In their letter they exclaimed,” ‘hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions,’ we also point out that such actions as incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not contributed to the resolution of our local problems”(Durick). King goes on to explain that the protest are not an act of violence, and that all of them are actually purposely nonviolent. Kings major emphasis in these protests were nonviolence, all of the people involved in them were trained in the practices. They were spit on, harassed, and beat, but