Who are you in this letter?
The white clergy opposing Dr. King? The white moderate? The white church sitting idly behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows? The black indifference? The black violent nationalist? The small group of white clergy standing by Dr. King, being ridiculed by white culture because of it?
Who do you want to be?
(Written to 8 white clergymen who published an open letter in Birmingham saying that social injustices existed but argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not the streets. Dr. King’s letter was written in the margins of newspaper scraps, the only paper given to him in jail.)
16 April 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 statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms. Continue Reading…