Sociological Analysis of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail Essay

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Sociological Analysis of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s
Letter from a Birmingham Jail

The paper analyses Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” from a sociological point of view and shows how three major theories (structural functionalism, social conflict, and symbolic interactionism) are treated in the letter. The paper shows different appreciation of King’s ideas and works by his contemporaries and modern people. It also explores the concepts of “nonviolent direct action” and “natural law” and determines their importance in the civil rights movement.
Keywords: Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, nonviolent direct action, natural law, civil rights movement

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Thus, it can be noticed that all three social theories are intertwined. The elements of society do not function in harmony. As a result, the social conflict arises affecting the outlook and symbolic perception of people.
Modern society supports King’s ideas and considers him to be a national hero. However, he often found misunderstanding among his contemporaries: "King's nonviolence played into the hands of segregationists" (Mott, 1975, p.411). Peace and brotherhood cannot be achieved through aggression, so King chose the strategy of nonviolent direct action. A heightened sense of injustice, sympathy to his friends, family and even strangers encouraged King to start nonviolent direct action. He understood that racial injustice always goes hand in hand with economic one. It was of vital importance that King fought not only for the rights of people of color, but also for the rights of all the exploited people. It shows his understanding and love for people. The letter itself is written in an ethical and non-aggressive manner. Thus, it does not alienate people from King, but convinces of his rectitude and calls for peace. Aggression and violence would only lead to human victims and, possibly, to another civil war. King’s tolerance managed to convince many people to switch over to his side. For example, Catholic bishop, Joseph Aloysius Durick, who became a staunch defender of civil rights, was inspired by