July 1962: Martin Luther King's first letter from jail

On Tuesday, July 10, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy are jailed in Albany, Georgia, on charges stemming from their arrest in December 1961 during a civil rights protest. While being held, King writes "A Message From Jail," making several of the same arguments -- and, in some cases, using nearly the very same language -- that he would later put forth in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," written in April 1963. (King and Abernathy were released on July 12; King's letter was written as his regular column for the New York Amsterdam News, where it appeared July 21.)

"A Message From Jail"
This is the heart of civil disobedience. Some of our critics complain that our non-violent method fosters disrespect for the law and encourages "lawlessness." Nothing could be further from the truth. Civil disobedience precludes that the non-violent resistor in the face of unjust and/or immoral law cannot in all good conscience obey that law. His decision to break that law and willingly pay the penalty evidences the highest respect for the law.

"Letter from Birmingham Jail"
In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

* Text of "A Message From Jail" (from The King Center, Atlanta, Georgia): @
* Text (from "The Empire State of the South," Christopher C. Meyers, 208): @
* Text of "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford, California): @

Albany Movement
* From King Research and Education Institute: @
* From Civil Rights Digital Library: @
* From Civil Rights Movement Veterans website: @
* From The New Georgia Encyclopedia: @
* Albany Civil Rights Institute: @
* Interview with Albany police chief Laurie Pritchett (for "Eyes on the Prize" documentary): @
* Interview with Laurie Pritchett (from Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill): @

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog archive


Follow: @