In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. was serving time in jail for demonstrating in Birmingham, Alabama. While he was in prison, eight liberal Alabama clergymen wrote an open letter addressing King’s tactics. While they gave lip service in support of integration, they condemned King’s methods. King, they felt, should limit his actions to the courts because direct action like demonstrations and civil disobedience disturbed order and led to rioting. King’s response was forceful and eloquent. To value order over justice was an injustice itself, and to demand patience from the oppressed when the oppressed had been waiting for centuries for justice was illogical and unjust. The letter, written on scraps of paper and smuggled out of the jail, galvanized support for the civil rights movement and caused sympathetic moderates to reevaluate their positions.

Read the letter:

part 1 | part 2