Sample English Essay Paper on Martin Luther King Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr, never one to shy away from addressing matters that were oppressive to the Black community was loved and hated in equal measure. He was considered as a radical who believed that all men, black or white were equal and deserved to be treated the same way. Martin Luther was driven mainly by his belief in God and many of his speeches; he would give a Biblical allegory to the events that were unfolding in America. His public lectures restored hope to many African-Americans and brought significant changes in their lives. His courage and selfless devotion seen in his concept of humanity gave many black people a sense of worth and dignity (King and Vivian 1). Martin Luther’s ideas were largely driven by ideas that were advanced by John Dewey, who also believed that ideas could be transformed into instruments of change. Luther was also an evangelical liberalist who was concerned about a wholesome and better life for all equality. He believed that man not only required the necessities of life but also spiritual nourishment through God’s word. He, therefore, utilized the ideas he had by transforming them into social action. This public discourse will focus on Martin Luther’s Letter from Birmingham Jail through which he made his intentions known. I will be defending Luther’s letter given the opposition that his actions through demonstrations were extreme and untimely.

            Martin Luther, while imprisoned in Birmingham received a statement in which his quest for justice, majorly seen through protest marches was termed as unwise and untimely. In his response, he began with stating the reasons why he was in Birmingham. He explained that as the President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he was required to participate in programs when called upon by the other affiliates (King and Vivian 2). At the time of his arrest, he was participating in a non-violent action program organized by the institution. Luther further reiterated that the reason why he was in Birmingham was injustices in the city. He felt compelled to carry out the gospel of freedom beyond his hometown. At the time of Martin Luther’s intervention, Birmingham was notorious for violent segregation. Indeed Luther was right to proclaim that he could not sit pretty in Atlanta amidst the injustices in Birmingham. Every human being has the innate desire to be free at all times. The question is why the blacks in Birmingham and many other states were considered as lesser people who could not enjoy some privileges. Another question can be raised on why the law restricting Black people from enjoying some rights was more important than the 14th Amendment that granted citizenship to the former slaves thus giving them freedom. I find that Birmingham was playing a game in which they were turning a blind eye to the deplorable conditions the black people were living in leading to demonstrations. Luther was right to take his activism in Birmingham even though considered as an outsider and an intruder.

 Luther in his letter states that he attempted to converse with some leaders of the economic community concerning the racial signs in many stores. His attempts were in vain since the signs were not removed after the promise. He cites Birmingham as the most segregated city in the United States where even the courts were in cahoots with the government to oppress the black people (King and Vivian 3). The police brutality concerning blacks in the city was known all over America and many other insane acts like bombing homes. It is clear that Luther’s visit to the city was well timed. In his letter, Luther questioned whether it was possible to accept blows without reiterating. He then set off on peaceful demonstrations across the city to create pressure for some action.

 When asked why he almost always opted for direct action and marches and not negotiation, he responded that direct action created a crisis that built pressure for the issue at hand to be dealt with. We have witnessed this in the 21st Century. Many employees, students and people who are not happy with the system choose demonstrations rather than negotiations. The tension created by protests bears immediate action even if not overnight. He cites Socrates saying that tension in mind often made people rise from the bondage in which they are. Direct action creates room for negotiation. When the opponent can no longer keep up with the pressure created, they often respond to the issue presented through the marches.

            Dr. King also responded to the accusation that his actions were untimely by saying that both the new and the old administrations consisted majorly of segregationists whose purpose was to maintain the status quo in the city (King and Vivian 5). He then emphasized that freedom could never be voluntarily given up by the oppressor thus the need to push for it constantly. Dr. King grew up in a generation where blacks were not allowed to socialize the whites. The emancipation of the blacks gave them hope yet former slave owners refused to accept that the black people were also human beings (King 135). The concern, in this case, is how timely a protest against racism could be for such people. It was already 90 years and over since slavery was banned yet in the minds of the segregationists, black people had no mind of their own. How untimely is a demonstration about injustices against blacks if the police curse, brutalize and kill a black person with impunity?

            I believe Luther had the desire to set the oppressed blacks free. His action plans were well timed, and he had the best intentions. In his own words, Luther affirmed that oppressed people could never remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom would always drive them. That is the reality that hit the Black Americans when they marched the streets in protests against racism. According to the utilitarian view, a system is unjust when it treats people differently without a good reason (Harel and Uzi 368). Many supporters if asked why the thought the blacks were lesser persons had no proper reason. It is like they are born into a world of racists and get infiltrated into the retrogressive culture blindly. Dr. Martin Luther King, however, fought for the overall good of all humanity, black and white.

Work Cited

Harel, Alon, and Uzi Segal.  “Utilitarianism and discrimination.” Social Choice and Welfare 42.2 (2014): 367-380.

King, Martin Luther, and C. T. Vivian. Letter from Birmingham jail. 1968.

King, Martin Luther. Why we can’t wait. Penguin, 2000.’t%20Wait&f=false