Audie Award Finalist, Original Work, 2013
April 16th, the year is 1963. Birmingham, Alabama, has had a spring of nonviolent protests known as the Birmingham Campaign, seeking to draw attention to the segregation against blacks by the city government and downtown retailers. The organizers longed to create a nonviolent tension so severe that the powers that be would be forced to address the rampant racism head on. Recently arrested was Martin Luther King, Jr....
It is there in that jail cell that he writes this letter; on the margins of a newspaper he pens this defense of nonviolence against segregation. His accusers, though many, in this case were not the white racist leaders or retailers he protested against, but eight black men who saw him as "other" and as too extreme. To them and to the world he defended the notion that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".
Estate planning lawyer and mom to two boys. My older son liked audiobooks as an infant, and I've listened to a lot since then.
It is hard to rate this since Letter is an important document in civil rights history. My 6th grader had to read it for school and so we decided to listen to this audio. I was glad we did. The audio performance was quite good and it was, as a result, a much more compelling experience than just reading it.
As one who grew up on stories and tapes of Dr. King's speeches and sermons, on his oratory, I was absolutely blown away by the combination of his pointed yet elegant rhetoric and his use of moral references drawn across time . We often hear only of Gandhi, not of St. Augustine, Socrates or Martin Buber. While I had heard of this letter before listening to it, I was unaware that it was written in response to criticism from Birmingham clergy.
The letter provides a clear insight into the human context of this trip to Birmingham, the struggles of those who lived there, and the strategy and commitment that was required to defeat the then-legal psychological, economic and physical violence of that time.
It is also a good reminder of an almost forgotten piece of American history. Many American History courses focus on the highlights. What those courses miss when they gloss over the context is that America has earned its greatness not just through hard work but also through times of difficult reflection and challenge like these - and there is still more work to do.
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