(Logic) English 2 – Critical Thinking and Writing (Spring 2007)
Outline MLK, Jr. reply to Alabama clergymen
[Students and professors, please read.]
Outline of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” argument.
Issue: whether or not public civil rights demonstrations should continue.
Speaker’s position: The demonstrations should continue with the goal of effecting negotiation that has up to this point in a very long history proved unsuccessful.
*Outline is immensely condensed compared to the 8-page inspiring tear-jerker.
Background: this is in response to “Statement by Alabama Clergymen”.
I. As an outsider, I am not here to agitate, but to respond to a call for aid. (Biblical examples and other reasons are given in favor of aid coming in from “outside”.)
II. Your statement fails to express concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.
III. The city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative other than demonstrating.
A. We pursued the four steps of a non-violent campaign: fact gathering, negotiation, self-purification, direct action.
1. Fact gathering.
a. racial injustice engulfs this community
b. Birmingham most segregated in U.S.
c. ugly record of brutality widely known
d. negroes experience grossly unjust treatment in courts
e. more unsolved negro home and church bombings
a. sought by Negro leaders; city fathers refused.
b. talked with economic community last September
i. promises to remove racial signs were broken.
a. workshops on non-violence
b. “Are you able to accept blows without retaliation?”
“Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?”
4. Direct action.
a. scheduled for Easter to put pressure on merchants.
b. postponed for election and run-off that followed
IV. “Why direct action?”
A. “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.”
V. “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?”
A. both administrations are segregationist
B. oppressive groups do not give up privilege or give freedom voluntarily, they must be pressured to do so
C. “Wait” has been the response for years. “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
D. It is easy to say “wait” when you aren’t the one experiencing [ very long list of horrible social injustices written in the letter ].
E. The attitude that “colored people will receive equal rights eventually” is an ally of the forces of social stagnation. Now is the time.
VI. “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?”
A. There are two types of laws: just and unjust.
B. I advocate obeying just laws, and breaking unjust laws (accepting the penalty in order to arouse community consciousness), out of the highest respect for law.
C. Respectable examples given of civil disobedience, like these demonstrations, to unjust laws, like segregation laws (like Boston Tea Party).
D. Examples given of atrocities, like segregation, that were legal, like segregation is (like Hitler’s actions in Germany).
E. Laws exist to establish justice, and when they fail in that, they become dams that block flow of social progression towards establishing justice.
1. The white moderate resist positive change toward justice in preference of negative peace which leaves tensions festering, whereas nonviolent direct action allows those tensions to be dealt with, exposed and cured.
VII. Your statement that peaceful actions should be condemned because they precipitate violence is like condemning a robbed man because he possessed money that led to robbery (etc.). Society (the federal courts) must protect the robbed and punish the robber.
VIII. You have categorized me as an extremist.
A. The way of love and nonviolent protest stands between two extremes: the “do- nothingism” of the complacent, and the hatred and despair of the black nationalist.
1. If this way had not emerged, the South would be flowing with blood.
2. If we are dismissed as outsiders, millions of negroes will turn to violence.
a. due to pent-up resentments and latent frustrations caused by injustice
B. I am an extremist for civil rights, like Jesus was an extremist for love, Amos was an extremist for justice, Paul was an extremist for Christian gospel (etc.).
1. Will we be extremists for hate or love? For the preservation of injustice or the extension of justice?
[ Provides a list of white people who have committed themselves to this social revolution. ]
[ Expresses disappointment with the white church, noting a few exceptions, which should have supported the revolution, but were outright opponents or remained silent, failing to understand the freedom movement and to link biblical and social issues. The body of Christ is “blemished and scarred … through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.” He harkens back to the early church’s courage and social impact. He notes the few who have joined the revolution, what they have done, and expresses hope that more will join. ]
[ Expresses optimism about the future. All their struggle [ many listed ] has made them able to endure. “If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom, because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.” ]
IX. You should not have commended the Birmingham police force.
A. Unarmed men were bitten by police dogs, treated poorly in the city jail, old women and girls were pushed and cursed at, they were refused food twice for singing grace.
B. Police were preserving the evil system of segregation. It is wrong to use moral means (conducting themselves nonviolently in public) to preserve immoral ends.
C. You should have commended the demonstrators. [ Provides long list of heroes of the South. ]
[ apologizes for and explains the length of the letter, begs forgiveness for any overstatements of truth or indications of unreasonable impatience, begs God’s forgiveness for any understatements of truth or indications of settling for anything less than brotherhood / a friendly conclusion expressing the desire to meet them and for love and brotherhood to shine over our nation ]
NOTE: I totally forgot to include all the times Rev. MLK Jr. shows respect to the clergymen. One example from page 1 being, “I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth” – another from page 1 being “I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.” Another I recall, end of page 5, beginning of page 6, commends Reverend Stallings for “welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis.” He also commended “the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.” I apologize if/that this is an incomplete treatment.