Letter from Birmingham Jail

by

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Eight White Clergymen Character Analysis

The Eight White Clergymen who wrote “A Call for Unity,” an open letter that criticized the Birmingham protests, are the implied readers of King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” King refers to them as “My Dear Fellow Clergymen,” and later on as “my Christian and Jewish brothers.” These men were Birmingham religious leaders from the Episcopal, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches as well as a Jewish temple; during the Birmingham protests, they met to discuss their concerns and ended up publishing their open letter, in which they questioned the timing of the protests and recommended that African Americans fight their battle against segregation in the courts rather than in the street. Most significantly, they claimed that the protests were being conducted by “outsiders,” referring indirectly to Martin Luther King, Jr., who was not from Birmingham. Their suggestion that outside activists should not be involved in Birmingham politics was the inspiration for one of King’s most famous statements, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
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Eight White Clergymen Character Timeline in Letter from Birmingham Jail

The timeline below shows where the character Eight White Clergymen appears in Letter from Birmingham Jail. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Letter from Birmingham Jail
Christianity and Morality Theme Icon
Justice  Theme Icon
Martin Luther King, Jr. directs his letter to the eight white clergymen who publicly condemned his actions in Birmingham, Alabama. He notes that he rarely pauses to... (full context)
Racism  Theme Icon
Justice  Theme Icon
...to discuss the fact that he and the other protesters are breaking laws, which the eight white clergymen mentioned among their many criticisms. He specifies, however, that the laws they are breaking are... (full context)
Racism  Theme Icon
Christianity and Morality Theme Icon
Extremism vs. Moderation Theme Icon
...and bodies to show their commitment to racial equality. He also commends one of the eight white clergymen specifically: Reverend Stallings welcomed African Americans to worship alongside whites, integrating his church service. (full context)
Racism  Theme Icon
Christianity and Morality Theme Icon
Justice  Theme Icon
...conditions that have brought him there. He then expresses a desire to meet with the eight white clergymen who have criticized the protests—not as an African American or a protester, however, but as... (full context)