Letter From Birmingham Jail

How does King address criticisms that he is breaking the law and how does he recommend that Americans concerned with social justice break laws?

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Dr. King notes that the clergymen are anxious over the black man’s “willingness to break laws.” He admits that his intention seems paradoxical, since he expects whites to follow laws that protect equality, while breaking others.

However, he then distinguishes between just and unjust laws, insisting that an individual has both a right and a responsibility to break unjust laws. He defines just laws as those that uphold human dignity, and unjust laws as those that “degrade human personality.” Unjust laws, he argues, hurt not only the oppressed, but also the oppressors, since they are given a false sense of superiority (175).