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Strengths and weaknesses of the letter

Discuss about the Liberal Arts for Letter from Birmingham Jail.

The Letter from Birmingham Jail comes as a response from Martin Luther King Jr to the “Call for Unity” clergymen. The letter in a much open manner defends the nonviolent resistance of the ‘Black’ or Afro Americans against racism. Hitting on the religious approach Martin Luther King Jr declares that people have a moral responsibility to break laws that supports inequality or racism and take direct action against the laws instead of waiting for ‘legal’ justice (Rieder, 2014). Martin Luther King since the beginning had a great fame as an orator. Depending much on the oratory skills and religious sensibility Martin Luther justifies their (the Afro-American) stand Birmingham movement, which was brought out much on the ethical and moral ground to strengthen the laws and rights of the black people in America.

The following paper through a detailed background and literary analysis tends to find the justification of the Letter from Birmingham Jail. At the same time the essay delves deep to analyze and find out the strengths and weaknesses of the following text.

The letter contains in it both the qualities of strength and weaknesses. Being a response, the letter clearly explains that Martin Luther King has read the statements of the clergymen who call him to be an ‘outsider’ (King Jr, 2012). The letter vastly hits on the points of racism, extremism against the black youths, religion, civility, and over all humanity. The greatest strength of the letter lies in the oratory approach of Martin Luther King and the strikes he puts on the clergymen and indirectly to the White nation. At the same time, in a much polite yet firm manner, King brings out the issues of social legal and political obstacles of a ‘Negro’ in their ‘own land’ (King Jr, 1963). The issues count to be the greatest strong points in the letter for the letter shakes the religious bases of the state and truly to focus on the religious bases of Christianity itself.  Christianity encourages equality for every race:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Bible, 2015).

Thus, King questions the clergymen on their religious grounds regarding inequality. He goes on  mentioning about the religious leaders who “call upon their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law” (King Jr, 2012). Luther as he mentions, longs to hear the white ministers to talk about the equality of the ‘Negros’. At the same time, Luther attacks the institution of religion attacKing more the clergymen on ethical grounds. The unethical practices of the time was a common phenomena of the then contemporary period, as he mentions of his experience of churches, committing themselves to an absolute different religion than the one they preach, which eventually created a distinction between ‘bodies and souls, the sacred and the secular’ (King Jr, 2012).

Martin Luther King Jr.'s oratory skills

On the grounds of social and legal convention King retaining their position of non violence puts the aggressive stand of the state much to the place of Hitler and his anti-Jewish policies and the position of Hungarian freedom fighter to be illegal for they stood out for their right. Thus King in a much polite and orated manner put the state in the position of autocrats along with the clergymen to be much of ‘hypocrites’ of a state where it can be termed illegal to stand for their rights (Apsel, 2015 ). The situation remained same for more than hundred years as Martin Luther King Jr mentions in his ‘ I Have A Dream Speech’ that it is when one hundred years have passed and still there is a reserved segregation and discrimination for the  Negros. It is still this day when a Negro lives a life of dire  poverty in a land of plentitude. They are lonely in a populated city. King highlights on the point that no such difference has been mad ein the passing hundred years for till this day “the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land” (King jr, 1963).

Nevertheless, despite the strong and burning arguments, the text contains weak points as well and the most highlighting weakness the letter can ever possess is the ‘self containing emotionalism’ (Mott, 1975). The nonviolent yet confrontational stand of the Blacks was much generated from the emotional approach of Martin Luther King Jr. the letter reflects the emotional attitude as well. However, in an already hostile state, emotional expression is nothing but a sign of weakness. Throughout the letter the expression of such emotionalism or ‘weakness’ as the state would see it, can dilute much of the text’s expected effects on the state.

However, to conclude it may be said that the Letter from Birmingham Jail is rich in its arguments and standpoints when it comes to terms with the confrontation of the white nationalists and religious leaders (clergymen), however despite its strengths and weaknesses Letter from Birmingham Jail still remains one of the best pieces of works in literary and political history. 

Reference: 

Apsel, J. (2015). Martin Luther King, Jr.,“Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and Nonviolent Social Transformation. Great Books Written in Prison: Essays on Classic Works from Plato to Martin Luther King, Jr, 230.

Bible, K. J. (2015). King James Bible Online.

King Jr, M. L. (2012). Letter from Birmingham jail. Liberating faith: Religious voices for justice, peace, & ecological wisdom, 177-187.

King, M. L. (1963). " I Have a Dream" Speech.

Mott, W. T. (1975). The Rhetoric of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Letter from Birmingham Jail. Phylon (1960-), 36(4), 411-421.

Nelsen, H. M., Yokley, R. L., & Nelsen, A. K. (1971). The black church in America. Basic Books (AZ).

Rieder, J. (2014). Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle that Changed a Nation. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.

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