Dr. King Essay, Research Paper
Excerpt from ?Letter from Birmingham Jail?
Martin Luther King Jr.
In Dr. King?s letter, he examines the differences between just and unjust laws. In
doing this he brings up many facts and ideas that support his theory completely. His
descriptive voice and powerful words allowed myself to feel the prejudice which tore the
South apart for quite sometime. He explains first what a law is and in order to be
considered a law there must be certain characteristics of it. He uses well known examples
and proves the whole judicial system wrong. He uses comparisons which could make any
person understand and agree. He backs up every statement and ties the fact that the South
would go nowhere with this type of ?anarchy.?
Dr. King contrasts between an unjust and just law. He defines a just law to be
morally respectful, religiously fair, and any law that makes a person feel secure. He
compares many others? definitions in his writing. He uses Saint Thomas Aquinas, Martin
Buber, Paul Tillich, and other very persuading ideas. His definition is a mixture of them
all, he perfectly states his definition when he explains why he was arrested. He was
arrested for parading without a permit. His parade was of good taste and being arrested
on that charge made the law unjust, however, if the parade was used for negative protest
then the law would be just.
The distinction between these two may seem unclear, but Dr. King then compares
it with Adolf Hitler and his reign in Germany. It was considered ?legal? to terminate Jews,
and Germany got nowhere. He also succeeds to show the Negroes respect for the law.
They consciously know they are breaking the law and they are willing to face their
He uses his definition of just and unjust laws and the way people react to them to
explain why the South is going to be barricade to civilization and a successful democratic
system. He states ?. . . the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for
the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the
dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.? (page 458) In
addition he is bringing out the ignored problem of this matter. He is not defying the
judicial system, but he is making them aware that the problem exists and needs to be fixed
in order to have a righteous society.
His arrest was considered peaceful, it would eventually would have sparked
negative emotions and possibly violence. He then attacks this matter and, again, he backs
it up completely. His comparison of a robbed man is perfect. He explains that since a
man may have, for instance, a nice car. That nice car is a target for a robber, so that car
should be banned because it ?precipitates? violence and theft. He compares his reason for
arrest to Socrates. Socrates should have been put away for trying to determine the truth
and other philosophical studies because it ?precipitated the act by the misguided populace
in which they made him drink hemlock.? (page 458) He goes on to even compare it to
Jesus and his devotion to God and religion would ignite the ?evil act of crucifixion.?
Dr. King uses the federal court has faithfully maintained that a group or person
must stop his constitutional right in a possible reaction may be violent. ?Society must
protect the robbed and punish the robber.? (page 458)
His last concern was a letter he received from a white man. The man explained
that the Christians took thousands of years to regain their respect and have fair laws. So
he is basically saying that the Black society must be patient. Dr. King responds to his
letter by first making him aware that time is neither good or bad, but can be used
?effectively? and ?ineffectively?. People who know they are going to die or leave home
use their sparring time wisely, as of people who are healthy and staying close to loved
ones just let the days go by. Dr. King says time should be used as an ally against the
?wait?. He wants the national democracy to acknowledge the problem and make its laws
so the superior a way of controlling the inferior in a positive way. Prejudice only gives the
lawmakers a false sense of power, and the segregated a false sense of the lawmakers.
How can a society maintain in that type of atmosphere? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. felt
that there was no time like the present to solve this matter.