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Tyrell Bethel PSC 101 Weds 7:15-10 Letter from a Birmingham Jail Essay Questions 1. In “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. invokes passages from “The Gettysburg Address,” The Declaration of Independence, and the Bible. Why do you think he references these sources? How do these sources help make his letter more powerful? Dr. King Jr. wrote the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” after an unfair offer was made by eight white clergymen. Their claims were to be that no Negro “outsider” should be allowed to establish or lead any protest and should leave them to their local neighborhoods.

I feel like he referenced these sources because they are well known by the people that would be reading this letter and it will make it easier for his readers to connect to what he is saying. Also all of these sources all talk about human equality in some way. The Gettysburg Address was a speech by Abraham Lincoln where he talks about bringing true equality to all citizens of the US and this speech was that in common with Dr. King’s letter. The Declaration of Independence of course is what this country was founded by. The very important line in it is the line that all “men are created equal” which is what Dr.

King is talking about in his letter. Lastly the Bible was referenced because it is an religious book that well known in this country which talks about treating people right and equally just like Martin’s letter. These sources make his letter more powerful because these are major a document, moment, and book in our history that will bring up many different emotions in his readers. Also it will make people think about what this country was originally founded of all and how it is not living up to those ideals. That is why I think he uses them as sources in his letter. 2. Many critics of the Civil Rights movement urged Negroes in the U.

S. to wait for their rights to be recognized. In “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” how does Dr. King answer these critics? Why does Dr. King believe that waiting is not the answer? In the Letter from a Birmingham Jail Dr. King answers these critics by talking about how long people of color had waited already. He addressed them in this quote “We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet like speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter.

” In this quote he talks about the 340 years that we have waited already for our rights and how other nation are so far in front of us in political independence. Also in this quote “Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait. ” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society”.

In quote he is saying that we can’t wait and waiting is not the answer because people of color are getting killed, mistreated and living in poor living conditions. I feel that Dr. King feels that we can’t wait because if we don’t force change then change will never happen and many of our brothers and sisters will continue to suffer with the way things are. That is why Dr. King feels that waiting is not the answer. 3. How does Dr. King make use of Gandhi’s notion of non-violent civil disobedience? Does Dr.

King, like Gandhi, believe that non-violence needs to be an active process, or does he believe that non-violent civil disobedience must be passive? In the letter Dr. King makes the use of Gandhi’s notion of non-violent civil disobedience in how he feels we can get change to happen. While giving way to the reality of social injustice, they expressed the belief that the battle against racial segregation should take place in the courts and not in the street. Dr. King said that without direct and powerful efforts like those he undertook, civil rights would never be achieved.

He argues that civil disobedience is justified not only to deal with an unjust law, but that everyone has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. Also in the letter includes the famous quote “An injustice wherever it is, is a threat to justice everywhere”. King remains opposed to the radicalization and violence backed by the Black Power and stresses that “the riots do nothing” and considers this method as ineffective even beyond nature opposed riots in his doctrine of non-violence, morality and faith. He feels like non-violence is not only right but necessary.

He talks about why violence is not the way in this quote “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a downward spiral, causing the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of weakening evil, it multiplies. Using violence, you can kill the liar, but you cannot kill the lie, nor establish the truth. Using violence, you can kill the hate, but you cannot kill hatred. There hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night without stars. Darkness cannot drive away the darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive hate: only love can do that. ” That was I feel Dr.

King from reading the letter feels like non-violence needs to be an active process. 4. Choose an example from U. S. History which represents the “painful experience that freedom is voluntarily given by the oppressor. ” The assimilation, extermination, and relocation of Native Americans during colonial periods was an excellent representation that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. Americans took every measure to prevent Native Americans from becoming citizens, and becoming a part of America. Native Americans faced wars, broken promises, relocation, etc. just to assimilate, but it was an extremely painful process for them.

They were pushed and pushed back by the Americans until they was almost extinct. They had their lives and culture took from by the Americans and they couldn’t do anything about it. The Native Americans didn’t have chance against the Americans because of the lack of weapons they had and the illnesses they were getting from the Americans. Americans didn’t want to give Native Americans citizenship or freedom, and even up until the 20th century, freedom for Native Americans was not sufficient. That is an example from U. S. History which represents the “painful experience that freedom is voluntarily given by the oppressor. ” Work Cited


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