Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” on sheets of the newspaper he received while imprisoned. The newspaper contained the ‘A Call for Unity’ statement written by several white clergymen, which criticized King and his non-violent movement. King’s letter was then taken by one of King’s friends and was widely published in different media.
The letter is specifically addressed by the writer to “Fellow Clergymen” and is mainly a reply to the senders of ‘A Call for Unity’. Furthermore, throughout the text, King frequently addresses the clergymen who criticized him: “But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement…”; “I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers.” .
However, by extension, we can say that King’s letter does not only target the eight white Alabama clergymen that signed the statement ‘A Call for Unity’, but all members of the clergy – white and black – who opposed the non-violent resistance promoted by King during the civil rights movement. This is suggested by the last parts of the letter, when the writer talks about the failure of the Church to support the civil rights movement and peaceful activism: “I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish ...