Martin Luther King’s letter from prison, April 16, 1963 Nov08

Martin Luther King’s letter from prison, April 16, 1963...

Martin Luther King was imprisoned because the peaceful direct action in which he was involved and which he asserted was necessary was deemed illegal by law in the state of Alabama. His letter is addressed to his “fellow clergymen” because he believes their criticism of him is “sincerely set forth” though he admits he doesn’t usually respond to such criticism since to do so would take up all his time such is the volume of opposition to his activities. The outsider myth His argument in his letter is that he is not an outsider, not least because there are 85 affiliated organisations in the South with which he has legitimate business. (This charge of being an outsider is very cleverly taken up again later in the letter.) He was invited to the South because of these “organisational ties” which I think is a challenge to the church leaders who were likely threatened by the sheer force of his personality and the “inescapable network of mutuality” he identifies in Alabama and elsewhere. Are these detractors worried that they are those who “stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevances and sanctimonious trivialities”? Toward the end of the letter King expertly comes around again to the notion of the outsider in reference to “the early Christians [who, when they] entered a town [discommoded] the people in power” and suffered accusations of being “disturbers of the peace and outside agitators.” Underlying conditions and effects He is in Alabama and he is in prison because “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere” and “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” This style of his of echoing (you see it repeatedly in the letter – no pun intended!) comes from the Bible which is often written with the...