By Jeung Ryu, a student in Ethics: Theories of Good and Evil. 

Among many of the points laid out by Martin Luther King Jr. in his letter from a Birmingham jail, he explains to his fellow clergymen why direct actions are needed instead of negotiations...

In the face of doubt of his approach and the call for more peaceful and passive means of demonstrating, King points out that direct action of nonviolence is exactly what they need to negotiate. He believes that the long neglect of the need for negotiations by the white community had made the direct actions inevitable. He is convinced that the freedom from oppression by the whites will not be freely given by the whites. He then adds credibility to his argument by making an analogy between the need for direct actions and Socrates' teaching. As Socrates had claimed that "tension" is needed to break free from the "bondage," he believes that tension is needed to address racism and to lift blacks from segregation and prejudices.

King then dismisses his opponents’ claim that his actions are untimely and further asserts that the actions are needed "now." In order to back up his argument that the direct actions are promptly needed, King then tells a series of emotion-evoking stories to help renders visualize and understand the ordeal that the oppressed goes through on a daily basis and to help them realize why they need to take actions now. To reinforce his argument he cites a repeating historical trend that the oppressors do not voluntarily give up their privileges. He believes that just like the Christians who fought the religious oppression, and the Americans who fought the British for their unjust taxation, Americans once again need to fight the immorality of segregation swiftly.

Through a series of arguments, including the above-mentioned, King prompts the members and leaders of the community to support his cause to end the evil of discrimination.

Inspiring Students

  • Leigh A. Willis

    Picture of Leigh Willis. Dr. Leigh A. Willis earned a Ph.D. in Medical Sociology and an M.P.H. in Health Behavior from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a B.A. with Department Honors in Sociology and Human Services from Albion College. Specifically, his research focuses on the sexual risk of heterosexual African American men and adolescents. His current research projects focus on social determinants of HIV among communities of color, HIV prevention among youth and African American heterosexual men, and the use of media (traditional, social, and new) to prevent HIV/AIDS. Dr. Willis is currently the Co-PI of an inaugural Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Innovation fund project to develop an HIV/STI-focused motion comic for people ages 15-24. Dr. Willis serves on the White House working group for using games as a policy tool.

    Leigh Willis on the Civil Rights Movement

    Leigh Willis on his internship and experience at UAB  
  • Kevin Scriber

    Picture of Kevin Scriber. Kevin Scriber is a native of Washington D.C. and earned his undergraduate degree, a B.S. in Biology, from Norfolk State University in 2010. During undergrad Kevin participated in several summer internships with the National Institutes of Health and volunteered as a peer mentor in Biology. Continuing his studies, Kevin enrolled in the Master’s of Science Biology program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in 2011. Kevin earned the prestigious Alabama Louis Stoke Minority Participation (ALSAMP) Bridge to Doctorate Fellowship in 2011 and has won second place at the ALSAMP Spring Conference and Poster Competition (2012). Upon graduation in Summer 2013, Kevin plans to pursue the Ph.D. in Biology, hopefully at UAB. 

    Kevin Scriber on education and the Civil Rights movement