Letter from Birmingham Jail
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The Letter from Birmingham Jail or Letter from Birmingham City Jail, is an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by Martin Luther King, Jr., an American civil rights leader. King wrote the letter from the city jail in Birmingham, Alabama, where he was confined after being arrested for his part in a non-violent protest conducted against segregation.
King's letter is a response to a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen on April 12, 1963, titled "A Call For Unity". The clergymen agreed that social injustices existed but argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not in the streets. King responded that without forceful direct actions such as his, true civil rights could never be achieved. As he put it, "This 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.'" He asserted that not only was civil disobedience justified in the face of unjust laws, but that "one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."
The letter was first published as "Letter from Birmingham Jail" in the June 12, 1963, edition of The Christian Century, and in the June 24, 1963, issue of The New Leader. It was reprinted shortly thereafter in The Atlantic Monthly. King included the full text in his 1964 book Why We Can't Wait.
The letter includes the famous statement "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," as well as the words attributed to William E. Gladstone quoted by King: "[J]ustice too long delayed is justice denied."
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