Sonny's Blues

We Are in This Together: Comparing "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and "Sonny's Blues" College

Martin Luther King and James Baldwin lived in the era of racial inequality and the civil rights movement, an era when African-Americans were still fighting to find a place in society. In 1963, King wrote a famous letter from jail while in 1957; Baldwin for his part published a fictional short story capturing this intimidating time period. Together, Martin Luther King's “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and James Baldwin's short story “Sonny's Blues” demonstrate a common fear of the future of African-Americans in the late 1950s/early 1960s United States. Both men write of struggling and troubled blacks trapped in racially-segregated Birmingham, Alabama, and a drug and crime-infested Harlem, New York, respectively, fearing that the status quo may never change. However, King and Baldwin respond to this fear, and they do so by encouraging brotherly love and community fellowship. They suggest that perhaps the best way to fight such fear is to unite and help one another.

King crafted his letter in response to the recent non-violent protest against racial segregation of the government and downtown retailers of Birmingham, Alabama. Although King is concerned with the fight against segregation for much of the letter, he essentially fears...

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