Analysis Of Letter From Birmingham Jail

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While imprisoned in Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. received a letter from the local clergymen that condemned his actions calling them rash and extreme, in response Dr. King wrote his own letter back defending his decisions. In his letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. King introduces the idea of positive extremism as he attempts to convince the clergymen of the need for direct action in Birmingham, by showing the similarities in his own struggles and those faced by countless historical and biblical figures.
In the letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. King explains that sometimes in order to bring about change you must resort to extreme action. He claims that without non-violent direct action nothing will ever get done, or worse the
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Rather than denying the clergymen’s claim that he is an extremist, Dr. King accepts that the title is fitting, as like all revolutionaries he has had to take extreme actions in order to bring about the change he wishes. However, he does wipe away the negative connotation of the word by contrasting his views with those often associated with extremism, he asks “Will we be extremist for hate or love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”. By juxtaposing the ideas of love and hate, justice and injustice he is showing the vast differences between himself and the stereotypical idea of an extremist. As rather than using unjust tactics to bully those he opposes into submission, Dr. King focuses his actions on lifting up those who are oppressed and giving them the strength to fight for themselves. The letter goes on to point out the similarities between the beliefs and actions of Dr. King and those of important biblical and historic figures, with the quote, “Was not Jesus an extremist for love… Was not Amos an extremist for justice… Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian Bible… Was not Martin Luther an extremist… And John Bunyan… And Abraham Lincoln…”. By alluding to these men and their actions Dr. King is giving authority to his argument by not only showing his extensive knowledge of history, which would demonstrate his understanding of the matter.
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