Letter From Birmingham Jail

How Stoicism Supports Civil Disobedience College

The Stoic way of life described in Epictetus’s Enchiridion (135 A.C.E.) is characterized by a freedom from anxiety and being highly aware of the limitations of humanity. The Enchiridion is a list of 52 principles that, by following them, would allow one to become as great as the philosopher Socrates. The deconstruction The Enchiridion in this essay will show that the Stoic way of life supports the practice of civil disobedience as used by Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960s civil rights movement. In “Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963),” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. defines and defends civil disobedience to the white clergymen of Birmingham, Alabama. According to King, one commits civil disobedience when “[he] breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice” (King, 7). Acts of civil disobedience that King took part in and organized during the civil rights movement include bus boycotts, lunch counter sit-ins, and violating Jim Crow laws. He also led mass, televised marches and gave speeches that reached thousands of Americans.

At first glance, King’s actions may seem contradictory to the Stoic way of life,...

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