It is quite apparent as to why Martin Luther King, Jr. was involved in the peaceful protests and demonstrations; he even goes into great detail in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. But why did he write this letter? He wrote this letter for purposes of the utmost importance. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote the Letter from Birmingham Jail because he needed to keep fighting for the cause, was hugely saddened by the inaction and response of white religious leaders, and to put all the misunderstandings to rest. First of all, King needed a way to continue the fight.
He had spent a great deal of time and energy combating the mistreatment of African Americans; however, due to this fight, he found himself currently sitting in jail. Sitting in jail, one can do little other than write letters. He felt a duty as the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to contribute regardless of his current circumstances (214). King took the position in order to lead and help people, and he was not going to let them down, regardless of his location. The civil rights “fight” was still happening.
The battle was not going to be put on hold simply because he was indisposed. Martin Luther King, Jr. was truly disappointed in the white church leaders. They spoke out against the movement in Birmingham, calling it “unwise and untimely” (213). In King’s opinion, and the opinion of hundreds of others, there was no better time. More importantly, Dr. King argues that the awful treatment of African Americans by laws and people should have been considered even more unwise and untimely. Years before, these religious leaders failed to be an ally to those involved in the bus protest in Montgomery (225).
The “white religious leadership” also neglected to be a “channel through which [the protestors’] grievances could reach the power structure, despite the ‘deep moral concern’ they should have” (226). The protestors needed the church as a force, as a support, to fall back on. It was the church’s job to be a pillar of refuge for those in distress, but the leaders failed to supply that. Finally, King felt the need to write this letter in order to combat all the misconceptions. He needed to show that his group was dedicated to nonviolence, evident by the “series of workshops on nonviolence” (215).
They took the precautions necessary in order to control their anger and not act in the moment when trying times were presented. King also stressed that they truly tried to plan for a respectable timing of the peaceful demonstrations (215, 216). As a group, they attempted to come up with a time that was convenient. The crusaders also tried to follow the appropriate steps, including getting proof that there is injustice, trying to negotiate with leaders, self-purification (which involves preparing oneself for any adversity or trial that may result), and then finally direct action in the form of sit-ins and peaceful protests (215).
In conclusion, despite how depressing jail can be, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew it was necessary to address the religious leaders who did not fully support the actions of the Civil Rights movements. He needed to persevere on, to stress his dissatisfaction with the attitudes of the clergymen, and battle the misinterpretations that many people had. All of Dr. King’s actions were necessary “because the goal of America is freedom” (227).