Circumstances

“Letter from Birmingham Jail” was written by Martin Luther King Jr. on 16th of April, 1963, while he was imprisoned in Birmingham, Alabama for organizing and attending a series of anti-segregation protests.

The letter was written in reply to a public statement by eight white clergymen from Alabama, titled “A Call for Unity”. The statement asked civil rights activists to give up protests and negotiate their rights, while criticizing Martin Luther King Jr. for organizing the demonstrations as an ‘outsider’ (King was from Atlanta, Georgia).

The Birmingham protests comprised a series of demonstrations and sit-ins to draw attention to discrimination against African Americans. The protests ended a few weeks after King’s letter with clashes between black students and white authorities, finally pressuring the local authorities to change the discriminatory laws of the city.

The Birmingham campaign was part of the larger civil rights movement in the US which started in 1954 and comprised a series of groups and demonstrations across the US aimed at ending racial segregation and promoting equal rights for African Americans. The writer alludes to the beginning of the movement when he mentions the “the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama” which took place in 1955 and s...

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