Posts tagged ‘Martin Luther King’

2 October, 2011

198 Methods of Nonviolent Action from Gene Sharp

protestors outside a KFC restaurant in Royal O...

Image via Wikipedia

This list was taken from Sharp’s work The Methods of Nonviolent Action, and describes instances where each of these methods achieved the goals that protesters set out to achieve.

This list was originally written in 1973, and could not have forseen the advances in technology that led to Facebook-revolutions and Twitter-revolutions, television, mobile phones with cameras and internet, and satellites.

The fact this list is almost 40 years old does not invalid it, History is greatest teacher, and if something has worked in the past, it could work again.

Protesters should always use as many methods and tactics as needed to accomplish their goals, not just stop at one.

If you believe in something, it is worth fighting for.

Get creative, when one thing doesn’t work, use another, and another.

Sharp’s 198 Methods are a starting point, not a complete list.

Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak… Non-violence is hard work. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to win.
César Chávez

(from Gene Sharp, The Methods of Nonviolent Action, Boston 1973)
via Peace Magazine

THE METHODS OF NONVIOLENT PROTEST AND PERSUASION

FORMAL STATEMENTS

1. Public speeches
2. Letters of opposition or support
3. Declarations by organizations and institutions
4. Signed public declarations
5. Declarations of indictment and intention
6. Group or mass petitions

COMMUNICATIONS WITH A WIDER AUDIENCE

7. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols
8. Banners, posters, and displayed communications
9. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books
10. Newspapers and journals
11. Records, radio, and television
12. Skywriting and earthwriting

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

GROUP REPRESENTATIONS

13. Deputations
14. Mock awards
15. Group lobbying
16. Picketing
17. Mock elections

SYMBOLIC PUBLIC ACTS

18. Displays of flags and symbolic colours
19. Wearing of symbols
20. Prayer and worship
21. Delivering symbolic objects
22. Protest disrobings
23. Destruction of own property
24. Symbolic lights
25. Displays of portraits
26. Paint as protest
27. New signs and names
28. Symbolic sounds
29. Symbolic reclamations
30. Rude gestures

PRESSURES ON INDIVIDUALS

31. “Haunting” officials
32. Taunting officials
33. Fraternization
34. Vigils

Nonviolence is fine as long as it works.
Malcolm X

DRAMA AND MUSIC

35. Humourous skits and pranks
36. Performances of plays and music
37. Singing

PROCESSIONS

38. Marches
39. Parades
40. Religious processions
41. Pilgrimages
42. Motorcades

HONOURING THE DEAD

43. Political mourning
44. Mock funerals
45. Demonstrative funerals
46. Homage at burial places

Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed.
Mohandas Gandhi

PUBLIC ASSEMBLIES

47. Assemblies of protest or support
48. Protest meetings
49. Camouflaged meetings of protest
50. Teach-ins

WITHDRAWAL AND RENUNCIATION

51. Walk-outs
52. Silence
53. Renouncing honours
54. Turning one’s back

THE METHODS OF SOCIAL NONCOOPERATION
OSTRACISM OF PERSONS

55. Social boycott
56. Selective social boycott
57. Lysistratic nonaction
58. Excommunication
59. Interdict

NONCOOPERATION WITH SOCIAL EVENTS, CUSTOMS, AND INSTITUTIONS

60. Suspension of social and sports activities
61. Boycott of social affairs
62. Student strike
63. Social disobedience
64. Withdrawal from social institutions

WITHDRAWAL FROM THE SOCIAL SYSTEM

65. Stay-at-home
66. Total personal noncooperation
67. “Flight” of workers
68. Sanctuary
69. Collective disappearance
70. Protest emigration (hijrat)

That’s all nonviolence is – organized love.
Joan Baez

THE METHODS OF ECONOMIC NONCOOPERATION: ECONOMIC BOYCOTTS
ACTION BY CONSUMERS

71. Consumers’ boycott
72. Nonconsumption of boycotted goods
73. Policy of austerity
74. Rent withholding
75. Refusal to rent
76. National consumers’ boycott
77. International consumers’ boycott

ACTION BY WORKERS AND PRODUCERS

78. Workers’ boycott
79. Producers’ boycott

ACTION BY MIDDLEMEN

80. Suppliers’ and handlers’ boycott

ACTION BY OWNERS AND MANAGEMENT

81. Traders’ boycott
82. Refusal to let or sell property
83. Lockout
84. Refusal of industrial assistance
85. Merchants’ “general strike”

ACTION BY HOLDERS OF FINANCIAL RESOURCES

86. Withdrawal of bank deposits
87. Refusal to pay fees, dues, and assessments
88. Refusal to pay debts or interest
89. Severance of funds and credit
90. Revenue refusal
91. Refusal of a government’s money

ACTION BY GOVERNMENTS

92. Domestic embargo
93. Blacklisting of traders
94. International sellers’ embargo
95. International buyers’ embargo
96. International trade embargo

THE METHODS OF ECONOMIC NONCOOOPERATION: THE STRIKE h4. SYMBOLIC STRIKES

97. Protest strike
98. Quickie walkout (lightning strike)

AGRICULTURAL STRIKES

99. Peasant strike
100. Farm workers’ strike

STRIKES BY SPECIAL GROUPS

101. Refusal of impressed labour
102. Prisoners’ strike
103. Craft strike
104. Professional strike

ORDINARY INDUSTRIAL STRIKES

105. Establishment strike
106. Industry strike
107. Sympathy strike

RESTRICTED STRIKES

108. Detailed strike
109. Bumper strike
110. Slowdown strike
111. Working-to-rule strike
112. Reporting “sick” (sick-in)
113. Strike by resignation
114. Limited strike
115. Selective strike

MULTI-INDUSTRY STRIKES

116. Generalised strike
117. General strike

COMBINATION OF STRIKES AND ECONOMIC CLOSURES

118. Hartal
119. Economic shutdown

THE METHODS OF POLITICAL NONCOOPERATION
REJECTION OF AUTHORITY

120. Withholding or withdrawal of allegiance
121. Refusal of public support
122. Literature and speeches advocating resistance

CITIZENS’ NONCOOPERATION WITH GOVERNMENT

123. Boycott of legislative bodies
124. Boycott of elections
125. Boycott of government employment and positions
126. Boycott of government departments, agencies, and other bodies
127. Withdrawal from governmental educational institutions
128. Boycott of government-supported institutions
129. Refusal of assistance to enforcement agents
130. Removal of own signs and placemarks
131. Refusal to accept appointed officials
132. Refusal to dissolve existing institutions

CITIZENS’ ALTERNATIVES TO OBEDIENCE

133. Reluctant and slow compliance
134. Nonobedience in absence of direct supervision
135. Popular nonobedience
136. Disguised disobedience
137. Refusal of an assemblage or meeting to disperse
138. Sitdown
139. Noncooperation with conscription and deportation
140. Hiding, escape, and false identities
141. Civil disobedience of “illegitimate” laws

ACTION BY GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL

142. Selective refusal of assistance by government aides
143. Blocking of lines of command and information
144. Stalling and obstruction
145. General administrative noncooperation
146. Judicial noncooperation
147. Deliberate inefficiency and selective noncooperation by enforcement agents
148. Mutiny

DOMESTIC GOVERNMENTAL ACTION

149. Quasi-legal evasions and delays
150. Noncooperation by constituent governmental units

INTERNATIONAL GOVERNMENTAL ACTION

151. Changes in diplomatic and other representation
152. Delay and cancellation of diplomatic events
153. Withholding of diplomatic recognition
154. Severance of diplomatic relations
155. Withdrawal from international organisations
156. Refusal of membership in international bodies
157. Expulsion from international organisations

THE METHODS OF NONVIOLENT INTERVENTION

PSYCHOLOGICAL INTERVENTION

158. Self-exposure to the elements
159. The fast
– 1. Fast of moral pressure
– 2. Hunger strike
– 3. Satyagrahic fast
160. Reverse trial
161. Nonviolent harassment

PHYSICAL INTERVENTION

162. Sit-in
163. Stand-in
164. Ride-in
165. Wade-in
166. Mill-in
167. Pray-in
168. Nonviolent raids
169. Nonviolent air raids
170. Nonviolent invasion
171. Nonviolent interjection
172. Nonviolent obstruction
173. Nonviolent occupation

SOCIAL INTERVENTION

174. Establishing new social patterns
175. Overloading of facilities
176. Stall-in
177. Speak-in
178. Guerrilla theatre
179. Alternative social institutions
180. Alternative communication system

ECONOMIC INTERVENTION

181. Reverse strike
182. Stay-in strike
183. Nonviolent land seizure
184. Defiance of blockades
185. Politically motivated counterfeiting
186. Preclusive purchasing
187. Seizure of assets
188. Dumping
189. Selective patronage
190. Alternative markets
191. Alternative transportation systems
192. Alternative economic institutions

POLITICAL INTERVENTION

193. Overloading of administrative systems
194. Disclosing identities of secret agents
195. Seeking imprisonment
196. Civil disobedience of “neutral” laws
197. Work-on without collaboration
198. Dual sovereignty and parallel government

30 March, 2011

César Chávez: the non-violent revolutionary


Sí, se puede

I don’t think any one event, or any one day, or any one action,
or any one confrontation wins or loses a battle. You keep that
in mind and be practical about it. It’s foolish then to try and
gamble everything on one roll of the dice—which is what violence
really gets down to.

I think the practical person has a better chance of dealing with
nonviolence than people who tend to be dreamers or who are
impractical. We’re not nonviolent because we want to save our
souls. We’re nonviolent because we want to get some social
justice for the workers.

If all you’re interested in is going around being nonviolent and so
concerned about saving yourself, at some point the whole thing
breaks down—you say to yourself,

‘Well, let them be violent, as long as I’m nonviolent.’

Or you begin to think it’s okay to lose the battle as long as you
remain nonviolent, the idea is that you have to win and be
nonviolent. That’s extremely important! You’ve got to be
nonviolent—and you’ve got to win with nonviolence! What do
the poor care about strange philosophies of nonviolence if it
doesn’t mean bread for them?

~ Cesar Chavez

 

We know we cannot be kind to animals until we stop exploiting them — exploiting animals in the name of science, exploiting animals in the name of sport, exploiting animals in the name of fashion, and yes, exploiting animals in the name of food.
César Chávez

César Chávez a farm worker in California, who became a community organiser, labour leader and civil rights activist, and inspiration in non-violent campaigning for change.

Chávez, and Dolores Huerta, established the National Farm Workers Association, which became the United Farm Workers (UFW), and in the process showed what non-violent, compassionate, passionate activism can achieve.

In fighting for the rights of farm workers, the UFW was fighting for work place rights on behalf of a group of workers who had / have working conditions that very few other work places would find acceptable. As the recent death of Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez due to heat stroke shows.
However, a family member says that Chávez was vegan. Camila Chavez, his niece, said: Cesar was a vegan. He didn’t eat any animal products. He was a vegan because he believed in animal rights but also for his health

Building on those who went before, Mexican Revolutionary – Emiliano Zapata, Martin Luther King, and Indian revolutionaries Nehru and Gandhi, he used as many tools as he could to gain rights for farm labourers.

 

There is no such thing as defeat in non-violence.
César Chávez

31 March, César Chávez’s birthday, is a state holiday in California, in honour of his community service.

And in the way that Chávez was inspired by those who went before him, maybe he can inspire a new generation of animal rights activists, inspired by his slogan “Yes, you can” (Sí, se puede).

Perhaps, vegans could adopt that day also, for a day of Animal Rights activism, non-violent acts of Revolution and community vegan activism?

I became a vegetarian after realizing that animals feel afraid, cold, hungry and unhappy like we do. I feel very deeply about vegetarianism and the animal kingdom. It was my dog Boycott who led me to question the right of humans to eat other sentient beings.
César Chávez

This video examines the legacy of Chávez, his fight for justice, human rights, work place safety, and even environmental protections with his attention to the use of pesticides in food production. Among those paying tribute are Robert Kennedy and Martin Sheen.

Yes, you can.
13 September, 2010

Liberation, Peace and Justice


Vodpod videos no longer available.

Liberation, Peace, and Social Justice

This is a video clip I made (not just uploaded), against a background of John Lennon’s “Give Peace A Chance”, with quotes, clips, images from the past century. Ranging from women fighting for the vote, to the Gaza freedom flotilla of 2010. Focusing on civil rights and liberation movements, including John F Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Gloria Steinem, Pearl Bailey and Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Social justice is something people must stand up for. The lessons through history are that people who stand up for their rights and the rights of others get them.

Northern Ireland, feminism, Palestine, Black Panthers, Nelson Mandela, Tienanmen Square, Suffragettes, Australian Aboriginal sovereignty, socialism, peace, justice, fighting hunger, Cesar Chavez, a montage of images and quotes to inspire Liberation of people and animals…

15 July, 2009

Christian “Civil Disobedience” (extreme violence)

Civil disobedience, is the non compliance with unjust laws or rules of government or occupying force. Sometimes called non-violent resistance.

Martin Luther King: “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”

When it comes to the fight for animal rights, it is something that I believe is important, because too often, those who defend animals, even in non-violent ways are classified as terrorists. When a government criminalises compassion, you know that animal liberation has governments running scared. And those who would fight, are frightened into submission.

Martin Luther King was a Reverend, therefore, when he talks about breaking unjust laws, he could be seen as preaching.

Christianity, however, for those who believe in the infallibility of the christian bible, it can provide inspiration, a role model of actions that can be used to fight unjust laws.

And for those who don’t believe, enjoy turning the bible back on those who preach Christianity, but sometimes forget its teachings (eg: Thou shalt not Kill).

Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnets...

Image via Wikipedia: Four Horsemen of the Apocalyse

God-approved honeytrap and murder
Judges 4:17-24, the story of Jael, who lured the commander of the enemy army into her tent and then “Jael wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, until it went down into the ground he was lying fast asleep from weariness and he died.” although that would probably be illegal, and most definitely not non-violent

Vengence
The “law of retaliation” deals with vengeance “You are to take life for life, eye for eye.” (Exodus 21:23-25)

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil… If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone… Do not take revenge….” (Romans 12:17-19) If it is possible, doesn’t mean always.

Revenge, try and try again
The book of Revelations, offering a full menu of diabolical fare – apocalypse, confrontation between good and evil, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, riding white, red, black, and pale-green horses representing conquest (or pestilence), war, famine, and death, cries for vengeance, hail and fire destroy a third of the trees and grass, a third of the oceans are destroyed, a third of the rivers and springs are poisoned, a third of the sky is darkened, a plague of “locusts” terrorise the Earth, an army of 200 million kills a third of Earth’s population, and the sun scorches the Earth with intense heat.

Jesus, the Warrior
Jesus “a nomadic troublemaker, a Che Guevara of the Sinai Peninsular” (Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women, Wurtzel, 1998) whether man or the myth, had a religion created in his name, overthrew the Roman empire in the Middle East, has over a billion followers and had some of the bloodiest wars started by his followers

Jesus is supposed to have said “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34 )
and “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” (Luke 22:36-38)

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18)

Prison Break
Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know”. (Proverbs 24:11-12)


“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
… Does that describe humans or animals?


Feedback welcome.

10 April, 2009

Tyranny or Revolution… Choose

Tyranny or Revolution. One of two simple choices. Continue to live a dictatorship or stand up and say No.

Those are the options – either unquestioningly obey unjust laws or stand up against them. By fighting unjust laws you are standing up for justice, freedom, free-thinking, you are standing up for what you believe in, more importantly – what is right.

If you obey unjust laws, that you know are unjust, you are losing your freedom, independence of thought, and you are sitting back doing nothing, from a position of safety while others are subjected to unjust laws that selectively punish and discriminate.

It doesn’t take a majority to make a rebellion; it takes only a few determined leaders and a sound cause.” H L Mencken

As we can see from many civil rights movements, from the abolition of the slave trade, sufferage for women, ending apartheid in South Africa, African Independence Movement and gay rights, the fight is for rights is not about a group asking or begging for their rights but about people taking the power that is already theirs and asserting their rights.

The fight for rights against those who hold power is an expression of power. People acknowledging there is injustice and standing up and fighting is an expression of strength, which challenges the common held notions of power relationships. Foucault (1990) said, it is in principle impossible to oppose power, because it is only with power that power can be opposed.

However, the fight for animal rights is an except to all civil rights and social justice movements, in that those who are victims and suffer at the hands of those with power, are never going to be in a position to assert their rights to life. What happens then?

Civil disobedience becomes duty.

As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever.” Clarence Darrow

If we don’t speak out when we see injustice we are silently and passively saying we agree. Our silence empowers those who wield the whips and chains of enslavement. And right now in the Animal Rights Movement there is a creeping silence settling on organisations and activists who seem to have forgotten how to fight.

The animals continue to be treated as mere commodities and activists are waiting… for, well, something.

This silence is what is happening in the animal rights movement. There is a growing popularity in Animal Rights Activism (ARA) of complacency. Led by a theoretical “activist” Gary Francione, they have taken over as the public voice of activism. They have elected themselves the moral guardians of veganism. They speak the loudest. Meanwhile the Real ARAs are out in the streets actually fighting for what they believe in and fighting against injustice and tyranny, against the suffering and cruelty forced upon animals in the name of economics and “choice” (consumer choice, the animal doesn’t get a choice).

We know through painful experiences that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed“. Martin Luther King

The Francione-Lee Hall-inspired “pacifist dietary vegans” often appear to be confused about what ARA is. It is not (only) making vegan cupcakes and eating vegan marshmallows. While following a particular diet can be considered political action, it is not direct action. Friends of Animals contend that “veganism is direct action” without actually explaining what Direct Action is or how Veganism is Direct Action, apart from such suggestions as eat at a vegan restaurant, buy a vegan cookbook, join Friends Of Animals (which they claim is inexpensive). Direct Action Veganism seems to be related to how much money you spend, turning veganism into a consumerist action.

While it can be seen that choices at the supermarket are political – from the brands you support or boycott, the country of origin, the distance food is transported, its environmental impact in production, or the welfare of the ingredients in the case of animal products. The companies you support economically or economically sabotage shape the world, every consumers choice at the cash register has an impact on the world. From child slavery for chocolate or palm oil in your cakes to supporting brands that also own cigarette companies or avoiding animal products – these all have political consequences.

Although following a vegan diet might be regarded as passivism (passive + activism). And unless someone follows up advocating a vegan diet with actual actions you are a not an activist vegan, but a dietary vegan. The clue is in the word ACTIVism, it suggests some kind of ACTivity, ACTion, it involves acting one way or another, being an active agent in opposing the suffering and cruelty in the world. Part of the definition of vegan is someone who “promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment” (Watson and Shrigley). It is not telling other vegans how superior you are, that yours is the one true way, and the path to animal rights is found Only by blindly following Francione and Hall.

Words without action are meaningless.
The world will not, as Gary Francione and his followers say, be vegan if you want it. It will be vegan when people act on it. Get out and do something about it. Wishful thinking rarely achieves anything. It will take hard work, it will take risk, it will involve taking a stand FOR something, not just endlessly shouting down any Real ARAs who don’t blindly obey Francione.

What the world needs is a revolution, not another movement. The insistence of Francione and Hall followers of calling themselves “Abolitionist Vegan” divides Animal Rights. It artificially separates vegans, splintering what should be a united movement into Us v Them.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Why We Can’t Wait, 1963

So while Francione and Hall are sitting around telling people to Buy vegan cook books, Buy memberships of their organisations, Buy meals at restaurants, Buy text books they write, Buy, Buy, Buy, and tell people this is “direct action”, there are real Direct Action Activists are refusing to accept the status quo of a society that puts a higher price on the death of an animal that they do on the value of that animals life.

This is not civil war between those that oppose all form of MDA – militant direct action and those who don’t condemn it. Because the dietary vegans who talk about peace being the only way, they are nothing but a distraction. Their beliefs don’t seem to be based on Animal Liberation but following gurus and their opinions, they will left on the side of the road long after Real ARAs are reaching milestones in the path to true animal liberation.

These milestones will be reached by people standing up against the tyranny of a society.

“What have you done for animals lately?”

This is not a criticism of meat eaters, this is not a criticism of vegetarians, nor is this a criticism on people who live a vegan lifestyle who don’t want to be ARA’s. This is pointing out the hypocrisy of people who call themselves “activists” and then do nothing but recruit for the members for the Abolitionism of Francione and Hall.

So get on the train or get off the tracks. Because when you target Animal Liberation for being not vegan enough, you are in the way, you are the hit squad for animal abusing industries.

A revolution is coming – a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough – but a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character, we cannot alter its inevitability.” John F. Kennedy

Taking the world vegan will require a revolution, in the way of thinking of six billion people. This will be achieved when those who want to see real Animal Liberation rebel against the tyranny from the Animal Agriculture industry and other vegans who stymie activists who are making a difference. It will involved standing up for your principles instead of attacking those who do. It means putting your life and freedom on the line, and if you’re not prepared to stand up for what you believe in, then just what will you do to save the life of an animal.

Eating vegan marshmallows does very little for preventing the suffering and death of an animal. And calling yourself an “animal rights activist” when all you do is shut down anyone who believes in a different form of activism achieves nothing – or rather it achieves nothing for the animals. It achieves a lot in slowing down Real ARAs, it sides with the abusers and enables them to continue inflicting their cruelty.

If you are fighting for animal rights and liberation, I will fight with you. If you are vegan, I admire you. If you reject the animal death industries, I respect you.

So… will we have Vegan Revolution or Tyranny?

A vegan revolution is inevitable, so what are we waiting for? Why not now?

Let’s start the Revolution today.

Feedback welcome.

9 March, 2009

Martin Luther King: LETTER FROM BIRMINGHAM JAIL 1963

This is in no way intended to trample on the copyright ownership of this piece. It is to disseminate ideas about justice, civil rights and civil disobedience for educational purposes.


_______________________________________________________________________

LETTER FROM BIRMINGHAM JAIL
April 16, 1963

MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here In Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. 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. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants — for example, to remove the stores humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained.

As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self-purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves : “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct-action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic withdrawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoralty election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run-off we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run-off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct-action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken .in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor. will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you go forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may want to ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I-it” relationship for an “I-thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and awful. Paul Tillich said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression ‘of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to ace the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fan in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with an its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.

I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this ‘hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At fist I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do-nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.

If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble-rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black-nationalist ideologies a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides–and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime—the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some—such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle—have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.

Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a non segregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative .critics who can always find. something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of Rio shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leader era; an too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious. irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, on Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? l am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide. and gladiatorial contests.

Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Par from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it vi lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ecclesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom, They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jai with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.

I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham, ham and all over the nation, because the goal of America k freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation-and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.

Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handing the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

I wish you had commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. There will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. There will be the old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” There will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,

Martin Luther King, Jr.

*AUTHOR’S NOTE: This response to a published statement by eight fellow clergymen from Alabama (Bishop C. C. J. Carpenter, Bishop Joseph A. Durick, Rabbi Hilton L. Grafman, Bishop Paul Hardin, Bishop Holan B. Harmon, the Reverend George M. Murray. the Reverend Edward V. Ramage and the Reverend Earl Stallings) was composed under somewhat constricting circumstance. Begun on the margins of the newspaper in which the statement appeared while I was in jail, the letter was continued on scraps of writing paper supplied by a friendly Negro trusty, and concluded on a pad my attorneys were eventually permitted to leave me. Although the text remains in substance unaltered, I have indulged in the author’s prerogative of polishing it for publication.