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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s position as an effective orator and passionate organizer of social movements is typically how most remember the civil rights leader and activist.

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Dr. King shined as well in written form, most notably in his famous open letter penned to fellow clergymen during his incarceration inside an Alabama jail cell 49 years ago today. Generally known as the “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” Dr. King’s vibrant words to other men of the cloth came as a result of criticism he faced as a vocal leader of racial injustice.

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King’s letter was actually a response to an open letter titled “A Call For Unity” released on April 12 from eight local clergymen that suggested the protests and other organizing events were not helpful. They further asserted that King and others should take their fight for injustice to the court of law and thought of the protests largely as an annoyance. King’s reply was replete with his typical eloquence, resonating far beyond the time it was written, remaining as a testament to his will and faith. Although the letter’s most quoted line is “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” there are other memorable moments as well.

”Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.”

For the full text, please click here.


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