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

  • Ashley Jones

    Picture of Ashley Jones. Ashley M. Jones is a recent alumna of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She graduated summa cum laude with University and Departmental Honors with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing and a minor in Spanish. She is currently a first year poetry student in the Creative Writing MFA program at Florida International University. She has been published in Aura Literary Arts Review and Sanctuary Literary Magazine. Ashley will serve as Features Editor of Gulf Stream literary magazine in Fall 2013.

    How would you describe your experience at UAB?

    "My experience at UAB was pretty great; I did a lot and I learned a lot. UAB was so nurturing to me, and I'm sure that my experience isn't unique. During my four years at the University, I was able to be a member of the University Honors Program and learn along with students of various races, religions, and schools of thought. I was able to be an active member in the Multicultural Scholars Program and watch my fellow minority students succeed and encourage each other. I was able to work as an editor at three literary magazines, and I was able to do research – yes, English research – as a member of the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program.

    "My research was invaluable – I worked under Dr. Jacqueline Wood and I assisted her as she began writing a biography of writer/scholar/activist Dr. Sonia Sanchez. I collected over 1,000 articles of primary research, and although that experience taught me a lot about the process of writing a book of this sort and about the process of working as a literary scholar, I learned more than I could have expected from Dr. Wood on a personal level, who encouraged and prepared me for the world ahead that I would face as a black woman in the literary field. Her guidance meant a lot to me, and, even now that I'm in graduate school, I take her advice to heart and I'm both cautious and aggressive in my pursuit of a career in academia and administration. Seeing her achieve her career goals and work toward exposing the world to the literary merit of Sonia Sanchez and others excites me as I begin to make my mark on the literary world."

    How has the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, particularly the Birmingham campaign, impacted you?

    "As a Birminghamian, I, of course, have been aware of the Civil Rights Movement and the Birmingham campaign for a while. However, I've only recently started to fully understand what it means to march, protest, and even die for a cause you care about. Now, when I visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, I find myself getting a little emotional. I can't imagine facing such a fight, and I am, admittedly, a little lax when it comes to actively fighting social injustices. I'm amazed at the sacrifice of those who fought this battle, and I'm incredibly grateful for their work.

    "But, as I get older, I'm inspired by the Movement. I understand the power of the voice of the people. If there's one thing I learned at UAB, it's that its students make their voices heard no matter what. And, drawing from these two experiences – UAB and the Civil Rights Movement – I hope I can cultivate the strength necessary to fight this age's battles and tell my children to do the same."  
  • Olivio Clay

    Image of Olivio Clay. Dr. Olivio Clay is currently Assistant Professor of Psychology at UAB. Dr. Clay has earned three degrees from UAB: a B.S., an M.A., and a Ph.D. in Psychology. Dr. Clay’s research interests are in racial and ethnic disparities, caregiving, social support, and cognition and mobility in older adults. He annually participates in the Birmingham Sickle Cell Walk-a-thon and his interest in the sickle-cell disease led to collaboration with Dr. Joseph Telfair, previously of the UAB School of Public Health, where they examined the properties of an instrument used to assess self-efficacy in adolescents with the disease.