Response To Letter From Birmngham Jail

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In his letter, King delivers a powerful and convincing message. This letter does indeed cover a lot of ground, answering many of the criticisms of King's adversaries. Included in each reply were several historical and religious references; these augmented his arguments greatly. King obviously had a great analytical view of human history. In this letter, he made the observation that "there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth". I think that he's hit the nail on the head; change in humanity seldom occurs without tension between two sides providing the impetus for that change. King also used that gift of analysis well in the civil rights movement. This is evidenced by his delaying the Birmingham demonstrations until after election season. This helped ensure that the more extreme candidate couldn't use the demonstrations as an excuse for harsher measures against the black constituency. I am certain that King's vision and leadership had a great deal to do with the overall success of the civil rights movement. Later in the letter, King states that the "Negroes greatest stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is.........the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice". He goes on to say that this white moderate prefers a negative peace without tension over solving the racial injustice in America. This is a most accurate observation. It is my belief that most Americans had no great personal stake in civil rights in the 1960's; they only wanted to see resolution to the civil unrest in some form or another. It seems that King felt this moderate majority to be the key to the success of the civil rights movement. I believe this to be true. I am most impressed with King's knowledge of religion and history. For this reason, I was surprised with King's view of the white moderate. World War II only ended two decades before; in this war, the world watched the German people slaughter six million innocent people. My point is this: if the German people could watch (and participate in) the Holocaust without objection, what makes King think the American white moderate would have any stake in the civil rights movement at all? As I stated earlier, King used many references to history and religion to corroborate his beliefs. For the most part, these references were used in perfect context. There were, however, two notable exceptions. His mentions of Thomas Jefferson were ill-advised; after all, Jefferson was a slave owner himself (quite ironic, since he wrote "all men are created equal"). Also, King alludes to eighth century Christians leaving their towns with a "thus saith the Lord" message. These "prophets" were the

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