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DC and Maryland Criminal and DUI lawyers
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WHILE confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities "unwise

and untimely." Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all of the criticisms

that cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else in the course of the day, and I would have no time for

constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like

to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of "outsiders

coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating

in every Southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliate organizations all across the

South, one being the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Whenever necessary and possible, we share staff,

educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago our local affiliate here in Birmingham invited us to be

on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour

came we lived up to our promises. So I am here, along with several members of my staff, because we were invited here. I am

here because I have basic organizational ties here.

Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried

their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of

Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled

to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for

aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be

concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an

inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never

again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can

never be considered an outsider.

You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not express

a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being. I am sure that each of you would want to go

beyond the superficial social analyst who looks merely at effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. I would not

hesitate to say that it is unfortunate that so-called demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham at this time, but I would say in

more emphatic terms that it is even more unfortunate that the white power structure of this city left the Negro community with no

other alternative.

IN ANY nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive,

negotiation, self-purification, and direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. There can be no

gainsaying of the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city

in the United States. Its ugly record of police brutality is known in every section of this country. Its unjust treatment of Negroes

in the courts is a notorious reality. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than

in any other city in this nation. These are the hard, brutal, and unbelievable facts. On the basis of them, Negro leaders sought to

negotiate with the city fathers. But the political leaders consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation.

Then came the opportunity last September to talk with some of the leaders of the economic community. In these negotiating

sessions certain promises were made by the merchants, such as the promise to remove the humiliating racial signs from the

stores. On the basis of these promises, Reverend Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human

Rights agreed to call a moratorium on any type of demonstration. As the weeks and months unfolded, we realized that we were

the victims of a broken promise. The signs remained. As in so many experiences of the past, we were confronted with blasted

hopes, and the dark shadow of a deep disappointment settled upon us. So we had no alternative except that of preparing for direct

action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and national

community. We were not unmindful of the difficulties involved. So we decided to go through a process of self-purification. We

started having workshops on nonviolence and repeatedly asked ourselves the questions, "Are you able to accept blows without

retaliating?" and "Are you able to endure the ordeals of jail?" We decided to set our direct-action program around the Easter

season, realizing that, with exception of Christmas, this was the largest shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong

economic withdrawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this was the best time to bring pressure on

the merchants for the needed changes. Then it occurred to us that the March election was ahead, and so we speedily decided to

postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that Mr. Conner was in the runoff, we decided again to postpone

action so that the demonstration could not be used to cloud the issues. At this time we agreed to begin our nonviolent witness the

day after the runoff.

This reveals that we did not move irresponsibly into direct action. We, too, wanted to see Mr. Conner defeated, so we went

through postponement after postponement to aid in this community need. After this we felt that direct action could be delayed no

longer.

You may well ask, "Why direct action, why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are exactly right

in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and

establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks

so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. I just referred to the creation of tension as a part of the work of the

nonviolent resister. This may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have

earnestly worked and preached against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for

growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage

of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having

nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism

to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. So, the purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed

that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. We therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our

beloved Southland been bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that our acts are untimely. Some have asked, "Why didn't you give the new

administration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this inquiry is that the new administration must be prodded about

as much as the outgoing one before it acts. We will be sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Mr. Boutwell will bring the

millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is much more articulate and gentle than Mr. Conner, they are both

segregationists, dedicated to the task of maintaining the status quo. The hope I see in Mr. Boutwell is that he will be reasonable

enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from the devotees of

civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and

nonviolent pressure. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges

voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has

reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the

oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct-action movement that was "well timed" according to the timetable of

those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "wait." It rings in the

ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This "wait" has almost always meant "never." It has been a tranquilizing

thalidomide, relieving the emotional stress for a moment, only to give birth to an ill-formed infant of frustration. We must come

to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." We have waited for more than

three hundred and forty years for our God-given and constitutional rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike

speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee

at a lunch counter. I guess 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, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; 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; when

you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she

cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes

when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little

mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when

you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, "Daddy, why do white people treat colored

people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable

corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs

reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger" and your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you

are) and your last name becomes "John," and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are

harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never knowing what to

expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of

"nobodyness" -- then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs

over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleakness of corroding

despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

YOU express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so

diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather

strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask, "How can you advocate breaking some laws and

obeying others?" The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I

would agree with St. Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made

code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To

put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that

uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because

segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a

false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the great Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes an "I - it"

relationship for the "I - thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. So segregation is not only

politically, economically, and sociologically unsound, but it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is

separation. Isn't segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement, his

terrible sinfulness? So I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court because it is morally right, and I can urge

them to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong.

Let us turn to a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that

is not binding on itself. This is difference made legal. On the other hand, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to

follow, and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Let me give another explanation. An unjust law is a code inflicted upon a minority which that minority had no part in enacting or

creating because it did not have the unhampered right to vote. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up the

segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout the state of Alabama all types of conniving methods are used to

prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties without a single Negro registered to vote, despite

the fact that the Negroes constitute a majority of the population. Can any law set up in such a state be considered democratically

structured?

These are just a few examples of unjust and just laws. There are some instances when a law is just on its face and unjust in its

application. For instance, I was arrested Friday on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong with an

ordinance which requires a permit for a parade, but when the ordinance is used to preserve segregation and to deny citizens the

First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and peaceful protest, then it becomes unjust.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach,

and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. It was practiced superbly by the

early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks before submitting to certain

unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil

disobedience.

We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in

Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany

during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist

country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying

these anti-religious laws.

I MUST make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years

I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great

stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate

who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace

which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods

of direct action"; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of

time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of

good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more

bewildering than outright rejection.

In your statement you asserted that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But

can this assertion be logically made? Isn't this like condemning the robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the

evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical

delvings precipitated the misguided popular mind to make him drink the hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because His

unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to His will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see,

as federal courts have consistently affirmed, that it is immoral to urge an individual to withdraw his efforts to gain his basic

constitutional rights because the quest precipitates violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.

I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth of time. I received a letter this morning from a white brother in

Texas which said, "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but is it possible that you are

in too great of a religious hurry? It has taken Christianity almost 2000 years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ

take time to come to earth." All that is said here grows out of a tragic misconception of time. It is the strangely irrational notion

that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time is neutral. It can be used either

destructively or constructively. I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the

people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but

for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It

comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work time

itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.

YOU spoke of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my

nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I started thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in

the Negro community. One is a force of complacency made up of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, have been

so completely drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodyness" that they have adjusted to segregation, and, on the other

hand, of a few Negroes in the middle class who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because at points

they profit by segregation, have unconsciously become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of

bitterness and hatred and comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups

that are springing up over the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. This movement is

nourished by the contemporary frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination. It is made up of people who have

lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incurable

devil. I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need not follow the do-nothingism of the complacent or the

hatred and despair of the black nationalist. There is a more excellent way, of love and nonviolent protest. I'm grateful to God that,

through the Negro church, the dimension of nonviolence entered our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, I am

convinced that by now many streets of the South would be flowing with floods of blood. And I am further convinced that if our

white brothers dismiss as "rabble-rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who are working through the channels of

nonviolent direct action and refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes, out of frustration and despair, will seek

solace and security in black nationalist ideologies, a development that will lead inevitably to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come. This is what has happened to the

American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom; something without has reminded him that he

can gain it. Consciously and unconsciously, he has been swept in by what the Germans call the Zeitgeist, and with his black

brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America, and the Caribbean, he is moving with a sense of

cosmic urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. Recognizing this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community,

one should readily understand public demonstrations. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations. He has to

get them out. So let him march sometime; let him have his prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; understand why he must have sit-
ins and freedom rides. If his repressed emotions do not come out in these nonviolent ways, they will come out in ominous

expressions of violence. This is not a threat; it is a fact of history. So I have not said to my people, "Get rid of your discontent."

But I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled through the creative outlet of nonviolent direct

action. Now this approach is being dismissed as extremist. I must admit that I was initially disappointed in being so categorized.

But as I continued to think about the matter, I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not

Jesus an extremist in love? -- "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you." Was not

Amos an extremist for justice? -- "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Was not Paul an

extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ? -- "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist?

-- "Here I stand; I can do no other so help me God." Was not John Bunyan an extremist? -- "I will stay in jail to the end of my

days before I make a mockery of my conscience." Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist? -- "This nation cannot survive half

slave and half free." Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist? -- "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created

equal." So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for

hate, or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice, or will we be extremists for the

cause of justice?

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this. Maybe I was too optimistic. Maybe I expected too much. I guess I should

have realized that few members of a race that has oppressed another race can understand or appreciate the deep groans and

passionate yearnings of those that have been oppressed, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by

strong, persistent, and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers have grasped the meaning of

this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too small in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some,

like Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, and James Dabbs, have written about our struggle in eloquent, prophetic, and

understanding terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They sat in with us at lunch counters and

rode in with us on the freedom rides. They have languished in filthy roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of

angry policemen who see them as "dirty nigger lovers." They, unlike many of their moderate brothers, have recognized the

urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.

LET me rush on to mention my other disappointment. I have been disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of

course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on

this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand this past Sunday in welcoming Negroes to your Baptist

Church worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Springhill College

several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say that as

one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say it as a minister of the gospel who loves

the church, who was nurtured in its bosom, who has been sustained by its Spiritual blessings, and who will remain true to it as

long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

I had the strange feeling when I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery several years ago

that we would have the support of the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests, and rabbis of the South would be some

of our strongest allies. Instead, some few have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and

misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the

anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams of the past, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this

community would see the justice of our cause and with deep moral concern serve as the channel through which our just

grievances could get to the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous religious leaders of the South call upon their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because

it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers say, follow this decree because integration is morally right and the Negro is

your brother. In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sidelines and

merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and

economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, "Those are social issues which the gospel has nothing to do with," and I

have watched so many churches commit themselves to a completely otherworldly religion which made a strange distinction

between bodies and souls, the sacred and the secular.

There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period that the early Christians rejoiced when they were

deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas

and principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the early Christians

entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being "disturbers of the peace" and

"outside agitators." But they went on with the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven" and had to obey God rather than

man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated."

They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.

Things are different now. The contemporary church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often

the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average

community is consoled by the church's often vocal sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the

early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no

meaning for the twentieth century. I meet young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright

disgust.

I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of

justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives

are presently misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of

America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. Before the

Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson scratched across the pages of history the majestic word of

the Declaration of Independence, we were here. For more than two centuries our foreparents labored here without wages; they

made cotton king; and they built the homes of their masters in the midst of brutal injustice and shameful humiliation -- and yet

out of a bottomless vitality our people continue to thrive and develop. 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.

I must close now. But before closing I am impelled to mention one other point in your statement that troubled me profoundly.

You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I don't believe you would

have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its angry violent dogs literally biting six unarmed, nonviolent

Negroes. I don't believe you would so quickly commend the policemen if you would observe their ugly and inhuman treatment of

Negroes here in the city jail; if you would watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you would see

them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys, if you would observe them, as they did on two occasions, refusing to give us

food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I'm sorry that I can't join you in your praise for the police department.

It is true that they have been rather disciplined in their public handling of the demonstrators. In this sense they have been publicly

"nonviolent." But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the last few years I have consistently

preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. So I have tried to make it clear

that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more, to use

moral means to preserve immoral ends.

I wish you had commended the Negro demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer, and

their amazing discipline in the midst of the most inhuman provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They

will be the James Merediths, courageously and with a majestic sense of purpose facing jeering and hostile mobs and the

agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in

a seventy-two-year-old woman of Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to

ride the segregated buses, and responded to one who inquired about her tiredness with ungrammatical profundity, "My feets is

tired, but my soul is rested." They will be young high school and college students, young ministers of the gospel and a host of

their elders courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience's sake. One day

the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for

the best in the American dream and the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage.

Never before have I written a letter this long -- or should I say a book? I'm afraid that it is much too long to take your precious

time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else is there

to do when you are alone for days in the dull monotony of a narrow jail cell other than write long letters, think strange thoughts,

and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that is an understatement of the truth and is indicative of an unreasonable impatience, I beg

you to forgive me. If I have said anything in this letter that is an overstatement of the truth and is indicative of my having a

patience that makes me patient with anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
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Part 2 of 3 on our SFST series.  One-leg stand
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