Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail
A statement from eight white clergymen from Alabama prompted Martin Luther King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail”. This statement criticized Kings actions of non-violent protests against racial segregation and the injustice of unequal civil rights in America (Carpenter elt al.). The eight clergymen considered Birmingham to be “their” town and King was disrupting the “Law and Order and Common Sense” established in coping with racial issues in Alabama during this time (Carpenter elt al. par 1). These clergymen considered King an “outsider” and describe his actions as “unwise and untimely” (Carpenter elt al. par 3). This statement suggests that there is an appropriate time to create equality among all Americans. To analyze the power strategizes of Martin Luther King’s Letter we must understand this letter was written from a jail cell, where King a black man, was held for protesting for racial equality. Furthermore, King began writing his letter among the margins of the newspaper’s article that contained the clergymen’s statement (King Institute).
The statement written by the clergymen and directed at Martin Luther King Jr. was a direct action to manage the “game” and “regulate the action,” as Michael Schwalbe theorized (163). By detaining King for “parading without a permit” the Birmingham Police Force attempted to manage King’s actions with punishment (King, par. 14). By denying King the “First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest” (14) the Birmingham Police Department is protecting their “identity stakes” (Schwalbe, 165), of white privilege. The white power structure described in King’s letter was “to preserve the evil system of segregation” (King, par. 46). By jailing King, the Birmingham Police Department and the clergymen attempted to maintain the system of racial segregation and therefore protecting their “identity states” (Schwalbe, 165).
Martin Luther King’s Jr.’s letter was influential in inspiring and ultimately altering societal attitude on racial issues. He used a creative use of language that addresses any plausible audience including: the clergymen, the religious moderates, the equal rights supporters and the oppressed black community. The use of famous icons, religious leaders, and traditional scholars as references provided a multitude of examples that clearly illustrated King’s key points. Moreover, King carefully analyzed the duplicity of racial segregation through examples of “civil disobedience” among important historical icons valued in society (King par 21). In doing this King is able to utilize Luke’s, three-dimensional approach and tilt the power dynamic in his favor.
It is Luke’s political strategy that helps King to create the desired power shift. His approach forces his audience to look beyond the surface (one-dimensional view), into the First-Amendment rights to protest (second-dimensional view), and further into the...