Letter From Birmingham Jail


Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come. This is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom; something without has reminded him that he can gain it. Consciously and uncounsciously, he has been swept in by what German call the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America, and the Carribean, he is moving with a sense of cosmic urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. Recognizing this viral urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand public demonstrations. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and laten frustrations. He has to get them out. So let him march sometime ; let him have his prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; understand why he must have sitins and freedom rides. If his repressed emotions do not come out in these nonviolent ways, they will cme out in ominous expressions of violence. This is not a threat; it is a fact of history. So I have not said to my people, ''Get rid of your discontent.''But I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled through the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. Now this approach is being dismissed as extremist. I must admit that I was initially disappointed in being so categorized.

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Martin Luther King Jr channeling his followers to express their frustrations in a constructive and peaceful manner yet he is being accused, by whites in power, of inciting hatred and violence. Martin Luther's message was of non-violent confrontation yet many in the white community accuse him of stirring up trouble.