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Letter from the clergy and Kings response - Essay Example

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In the history of the African American movement, the letter from a Birmingham Jail stands out as a memorable document of the reasons and philosophy behind Dr. Martin Luther King’s chosen path of non-violent resistance. The letter was written on April 16, 1963, in response to a…
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Letter from the clergy and Kings response
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Letter from the Clergy and King’s Response of the of the Letter from the Clergy and King’s Response Q. Write a two page essay explaining how the letter from the clergy and King’s response illustrates natural law, legal positivism and legal realism.
In the history of the African American movement, the letter from a Birmingham Jail stands out as a memorable document of the reasons and philosophy behind Dr. Martin Luther King’s chosen path of non-violent resistance. The letter was written on April 16, 1963, in response to a letter from 8 white clergymen on April 12, 1963 in which they cautioned King that he was going down the wrong path and that the correct way to protest for adequate black representation was through the Courts and local leaders, rather than in violence and demonstrations on the streets.
At the time, King was in a jail in Birmingham, Alabama. He had been arrested for his part in the Birmingham campaign, a non-violent protest planned by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and King’s Southern Leadership Conference. This movement was directed at Birmingham’s traders and the City Government. It was no secret that Birmingham was a city known for its highly visible discrimination against blacks. It was the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States (King, 1963). This discriminatory attitude emanated both from the white business class as well as the City Government. King’s response to the clergymen’s letter indicates why he was in Birmingham, since they had deemed him an ‘outside agitator.’ As President of the Southern Leadership Conference he was invited by one of its 85 affiliate organizations, namely the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights to be on call and come to their aid in respect of a non-violent protest whenever deemed necessary. This he had accordingly done. King asserts that his movement of non-violence was based on a detailed investigation that included collection of the facts, negotiation, self purification and direct action (King, 1963). There had been Court injustices and bombings that have not even spared churches attended by the Negro community. While they had approached the City officials for negotiation, this had never been done in good faith. Consequently there was no resort but to protest non-violently. Before this protest they had even approached the traders requesting them to remove the discriminatory and humiliating signs from their shops but this was done half-heartedly- a few signs were removed here and there but ultimately replaced. It was evident that things were not going to improve to their satisfaction.
That segregation is unjust is evident from the fact that it is not rooted in eternal or natural law. It is God that created men of all color. To quote both St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is no law at all (King, 1963). King wrote that segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically deplorable; it is morally wrong and painful. It has made the nigger into a nobody- it is humiliating to see signs like ‘white’ and ‘colored’ no matter where they go, and be addressed as boy, nigger and John no matter what their age. There are right laws and wrong laws and one would rather be obeying right laws instead of wrong ones. King also mentions that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Thus all of mankind is caught in a network of mutuality, having a single destiny. They have waited too long and now must act to get their rights.
King, M.L. (1963). ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’. Read More
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