By Rikki Fiedler, an introductory Philosophy student. 

"Letter from Birmingham Jail" is a very influential and ground-breaking letter in response to the clergymen who composed "A Call to Unity"...

This piece was a very condescending idea to Martin Luther King, Jr. As he sat in a jail in Birmingham, Alabama, for multiple days, he had the time to boil over this published work and create his strongly worded response. This response was prevailing in such a way that it has shaped history and impacted segregation in the United States in the most positive of ways.

In King's response, he writes "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." He says this in response to the clergymen calling him an outsider in Birmingham. King addresses that he could not step back and watch the injustices being done in Birmingham and not do anything about it. In relation to social injustices, his statement implies that no one should be able to sit back and witness such travesties without taking action. King believes that we are all brothers and sisters and we should stand up for one another when injustices are being performed. He also is implying that what one group of people, in this case the white community in Birmingham, does will negatively affect another group of people, the segregated African Americans in Birmingham.

Also in his response, King states that there are two types of laws, "just" and "unjust" laws. He defines a just law as one in which a person should be held legally and morally responsible to obey, and he advocates following these laws. He continues by saying just laws are "a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God." Furthermore, King describes an unjust law as being just the opposite, one which a person should not follow. He believes what St. Augustine believed, that "an unjust law is no law at all." Segregation is seen as an unjust law because it is hypocritical. The majority power compels the minority power to obey these laws, but the majority power does not do the same. Unjust laws are biased, and therefore, should not be followed.

Inspiring Students

  • William Anderson


    Picture of William Anderson. William C. Anderson, a native of Birmingham Alabama, attained a bachelors degree in Social Work from University of Alabama at Birmingham in May 2012. At the age of 23, Anderson has over 5 years experience in social justice, community organizing, and nonprofit work. The majority of William’s community organizing as of late has surrounded immigration, labor, and racial solidarity. Anderson is now currently based in Washington, DC, working for a union while maintaining a relationship with immigrants rights organizations through his affiliations with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance [NIYA] & DreamActivist DC. 


    “UAB is representative of a lot of things because people look to Birmingham as the mecca and beacon of the Civil Rights Movement... the history, everything that’s happened, that’s gone on so far…If you’re a native Alabamian and Birmingham resident…then I feel like there should be some sort of expectation that you recognize, that you represent something much greater and deeper being on these streets that are stained with the blood, sweat, and tears of people who could have been killed for just going in the wrong door, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, for making eye contact with someone of a different race…You have the unique opportunity to be around so much rich history and if you don’t take advantage of it for the betterment of this entire world, then I feel as though you are handicapping our society.”   - William C. Anderson

     
  • Ashley Wilson

    Picture of Ashley Wilson. Ashley Wilson is a Birmingham native and 2010 graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, with a B.A. in History and a minor in Anthropology. During her undergraduate career, Ashley earned a National Science Foundation Undergraduate Fellowship and conducted field research in Fiji. Currently Ashley is a graduate student in the Anthropology department and plans to graduate with a M.A. in Anthropology in Spring 2013.
     
    Ashley Wilson on not forgetting the Civil Rights