"Letter from Birmingham Jail" 
by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Resources for the Academic Orientation Session, King's College, Friday August 26, 2005

A good brief biography with several other resources: <http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/mlk/king/biography.html>.

Teaching guide on the letter, with excellent curricula, handouts, and questions:   <http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/liberation_curriculum/index.htm>.

For information on nonviolence, check out The King Center:  <http://www.thekingcenter.org/prog/non/index.html>.

An excellent rhetorical analysis of the letter:  <http://www.alexirvine.net/mlk/birmingham_notes.html> with explanations of many of the allusions and references to historical figures (see also the author's online version of the letter <http://www.alexirvine.net/mlk/birmingham_jail.html#beginning>).

A pretty colored version of the letter: <http://www.millikin.edu/wcenter/king1a.html> which highlights types of argumentation used.

Some more good questions:  <http://lilt.ilstu.edu/drjclassics/ih/IH52/Liberation/King/KingStudyQuestions1.htm>.

Hear Dr. King read the letter:  <http://www.thekingcenter.org/prog/non/letter.html>.

Some other questions to consider from Academic Orientation Review Session, May 10, 1995:

  1. How does Dr. King justify his presence in Birmingham against charges that he is an outsider coming in to cause social disruption?
  2. Explain Dr. King's distinction between just and unjust law?
  3. Identify the famous figures cited by Dr. King in support of his argument.
  4. Why was Dr. King arrested?
  5. What is Dr. King's defense of civil disobedience?
  6. What are Dr. King's charges against the white moderate?
  7. What are the two opposing forces in the Negro community between which Dr. King sees his position as a middle ground?
  8. What are Dr. King's charges against the white church and its leadership?
  9. While Dr. King decries the use of immoral means to attain moral ends, what does he mean about the use of moral means to preserve immoral ends?
  10. Is Dr. King's understanding of the Church the same as yours?
  11. Dr. King's letter was written when your parents were your age.  Ask them about their recollections of the Civil Rights Movement.
  12. In what ways do you think learning can help to bring more respect and cooperation between races and genders in America? 

Still more questions to consider

  1. What are the steps of a non-violent campaign?
  2. Why Birmingham?
  3. Are groups more immoral than individuals?
  4. What specific examples of racial injustice does Dr. King speak against?
  5. Is the goal of America freedom?
  6. What are the ongoing issues of race and civil rights today?  How do we deal with them?

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Last Revision: 23  August 2005

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