Letter From A Birmingham Jail Essay, Research Paper
We will soon wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and in winning our freedom we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
While there have been many persons of importance in the struggle for Civil Rights for black Americans, it would be hard to argue that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had the greatest impact in both the white and black community. It was Dr. King’s broad vocabulary, oratory skills, and deep education that set him apart from other black preachers in the church. King had direction, a purpose, and would not sway from his ideology due to pressures associated within the church from Elders and Aldermen. After receiving criticism from the leaders of the clergy in Birmingham for supporting the mass protest of the white business, King stuck back with his eloquent Letter from the Birmingham Jail. As I read this letter two things struck me as being important.
The first, why could such a group, leaders in the community, would not take an active role to bring equality to a suppressed people. God knows no color, and it is the place of the church clergy to support a body fighting for basic human rights. The criticism, as I considered the source, pissed me off. Second, In Kings letter he states: Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned to outright disgust.
I feel that King, in a way, saw the future. The church has not played the role that it should play in the lives of American citizens. Not then. Not now. While the world changes the leaders of all Christian religions must, without question, adapt to this change in order to bring in and retain youth in the church environment. These members of the clergy were wrong in supporting the status quo attitude concerning the black population in Birmingham.
King was very young when he entered his collage years, being granted admission to Morehouse Collage at the age of fifteen. It was here that he developed his advanced vocabulary and began to polish his oratory skills. This was his way of proving himself in a class of older students and would serve him well over the course of his life. He could articulate with the most common man or effectively argue a point with the most educated. It was within the parameters of these qualities that made King so popular with his peers and, in ways, his opponents. Pulitzer Prize winner Taylor Branch, in Parting the Waters, describes King as incredibly articulate and intelligent. He demonstrates Kings work ethic and personifies King as somewhat of a maverick in a time when a passive position towards civil rights was the norm. It seemed to me that Branch was with King every step of the way in his fight for civil rights.
The finale question in this essay that must be answered is the impact on the south of the slaying of Emmett Till in Money Mississippi, August 1955. I don’t feel that I could answer that with out considering the effects on northern blacks, of the entire the world for that matter.
The Northern black population became aware that the violence that the Southern Negro lived and died with could easily effect them as well. With the spread of mass media and the television the world was exposed to not only the funeral of Till but was afforded the opportunity to see the morbid manner in which he was killed by the condition of his corpse. The world cried for Emmett, but the Goddamed Mississippians defended the murderers. This action rekindled the fight for civil rights in the south, but now the world’s eye was watching. Mamie Bradley says it best: Two months ago I had a nice apartment in Chicago. I had a good job. I had a son. When something happens to Negroes in the South I said ‘That’s there business, not mine.’ Now I know how wrong I was. The murder of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of us all.” Blacks in the North as well as in the south would not easily forget the murder of Emmett Till.