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Adwait Shukla
AP Language, Pd. 2
Mrs. Ferguson
March 10, 2014
Full Draft
The sixties were excellent for the civil rights movement. Nineteen-Sixty-Three was
an especially pivotal year for Martin Luther King Jr. in which he led several peaceful
protests in the name of Civil Rights. One of these was the march on Birmingham which was
brutally interrupted by state law enforcement. Many protestors along with King himself
were arrested and put in Birmingham jail for protesting without a permit. While King was
in prison, eight well-known Alabama clergymen released a statement in local newspapers
calling the demonstrations unwise and untimely. Four days later King wrote his famous
Letter from a Birmingham Jail. In his letter, King refutes the clergymens statement that
the protest was untimely by describing the prolonged struggles of black Americans and
by arguing that they must act immediately in order to obtain their rights.
King defends his argument that these protests were well-timed by reiterating that
African Americans have been impatiently waiting centuries for their civil rights and
liberties. He does not hesitate to remind the clergymen that Black Americans have waited
340 years for change, emphasizing that black Americans have been anticipating this
moment for generations and for longer than America was a country. By mentioning that
they are searching for their God-given rights, King creates a bond between all the
wronged African Americans and the clergymen. These are men of god who deny rights that
God has bestowed upon mankind and by doing so and in turn dishonor the deity they
worship. He attests that for many years he has only heard the word wait! And that after
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many years every Negro recognizes the sound of being told to wait with piercing
familiarity, and should be relieved of this lasting piercing pain that they have become
accustomed to after many generations . To further establish his position, King bursts into
what is a seemingly endless sentence in which he spells out some of the many atrocities
that have surrounded all African Americans, which illustrates exactly why he cannot wait
anymore. He predicates that there comes a certain moment when the cup of endurance
runs over and that after waiting for so many years they have finally reached their boiling
point and are close to overflowing with intolerance.
King explicitly recounts the atrocities black Americans have encountered over many
years in order to contend that his demonstration in Birmingham was justified. He awards
the clergymen with the horrors that he has seen daily for his entire life. He expresses that if
they had watched as their family was killed by hate-filled policeman they too would want
nothing more than the end of segregations, which is precisely what African Americans are
seeking. In an attempt to convey the terrible experience of a man telling his daughter that
the amusement park is closed to colored children and watching tears welling up in her
eyes, King concocts a sense of guilt within the ministers by employing the innocence of the
child for his argument and thus furthering his cause that the protest was timely and
necessary. Anyone forced to watch these heinous crimes daily would feel a sense of
anguish. Kings goal is to illustrate to the clergymen that people in pursuit of civil rights are
no longer ready to be plunged into the abyss of despair, hinting that by protesting black
Americans were trying to pull themselves out of this chasm and send a message telling
lawmakers that it is time to alter history and award them with their natural rights.
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Kings purpose in writing this letter was to reply to the clergymens claim that his
demonstrations were untimely and that African Americans have been biding their time to
make the correct move. He wanted to address their assumptions as well as relay his
argument and he did just that in a very collected yet irked manner. King applauds the
resilience of black Americans and also dismisses the clergymens jab all in a Letter from a
Birmingham Jail.