Item #68664 Letter From Birmingham City Jail. Martin Luther KING, Jr.
Letter From Birmingham City Jail

Letter From Birmingham City Jail.

Philadelphia: American Friends Service Committee, 1963.

"Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere." First Edition Third Printing of the First Separate Edition of MLK’s Famous

"Letter From Birmingham City Jail"

KING, Martin Luther King Jr.. "Letter From Birmingham City Jail." Philadelphia: American Friends Service Committee, 1963.

The first separate printing, third issue of King's famous letter written during his time in the Birmingham City jail.

In original printed paper wrappers. Octavo (9 x 6 inches; 228 x 153 mm). 16 pp including wrappers. Printed on glossy paper. Staple bound. The lightest bit of toning to edges on back wrapper. Still an about fine copy.

"On April 12, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and nearly 50 other protestors and civil rights leaders were arrested after leading a Good Friday demonstration as part of the Birmingham Campaign, designed to bring national attention to the brutal, racist treatment suffered by blacks in one of the most segregated cities in America- Birmingham, Alabama... For King, this arrest- his 13th- would become one of the most important of his career. Thrown into solitary confinement, King was initially denied access to his lawyers or allowed to contact his wife, until President John F. Kennedy was urged to intervene on his behalf. As previously agreed upon, King was not immediately bailed out of jail by his supporters, having instead agreed to a longer stay in jail to draw additional attention to the plight of black Americans. Shortly after King's arrest, a friend smuggled in a copy of an April 12 Birmingham newspaper which included an open letter, written by eight local Christian and Jewish religious leaders, which criticized both the demonstrations and King himself, whom they considered an outside agitator. Isolated in his cell, King began working on a response. Without notes or research materials, King drafted an impassioned defense of his use of nonviolent, but direct, actions. Over the course of the letter's 7,000 words, he turned the criticism back upon both the nation's religious leaders and more moderate-minded white Americans, castigating them for sitting passively on the sidelines while King and others risked everything agitating for change. King drew inspiration for his words from a long line of religious and political philosophers, quoting everyone from St. Augustine and Socrates to Thomas Jefferson and then-Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren, who had overseen the Supreme Court's landmark civil rights ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. For those, including the Birmingham religious leaders, who urged caution and remained convinced that time would solve the country's racial issues, King reminded them of Warren's own words on the need for desegregation, "justice too long delayed is justice denied." And for those who thought the Atlanta-based King had no right to interfere with issues in Alabama, King argued, in one of his most famous phrases, that he could not sit 'idly by in Atlanta' because 'injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' Without writing papers, King initially began by jotting down notes in the margin of the newspaper itself, before writing out portions of the work on scraps of paper he gave his attorneys- allowing a King ally, Wyatt Walker, to begin compiling the letter, which eventually ran to 21 double-spaced, typed pages. Curiously, King never sent a copy to any of the eight Birmingham clergy to whom he had 'responded,' leaving many to believe that he had intended it to have a much broader, national, audience all along." (Behind Martin Luther King's Searing 'Letter from Birmingham Jail', Barbara Maranzani).

"Throughout the modern civil rights movement, the similarity of the social ideals of Martin Luther King and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) led them to work on the same side of racial issues. In 1917 a group of Quakers formed the AFSC to give conscientious objectors a non-military public service alternative during World War I. The organization began its anti-racism work in the 1920s and, in 1933, began sponsoring a yearly summer institute on race relations at Swarthmore College that lasted until 1941...The AFSC gained permission from King to publish and distribute 50,000 copies of 'Letter from Birmingham City Jail.' [Although we don't know how many were first editions, but probably much fewer.] That same year, the AFSC nominated King for the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor the international Friends organization had received in 1947." (Stanford-The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute.)

"Following the initial circulation of King's letter in Birmingham as a mimeographed copy, it was published in a variety of formats: as a pamphlet distributed by the American Friends Service Committee and as an article in periodicals such as Christian Century, Christianity and Crisis, the New York Post, and Ebony magazine. The first half of the letter was introduced into testimony before Congress by Representative William Fitts Ryan (D-NY) and published in the Congressional Record. One year later, King revised the letter and presented it as a chapter in his 1964 memoir of the Birmingham Campaign, Why We Can't Wait, a book modeled after the basic themes set out in 'Letter from Birmingham Jail'" (Stanford-The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute.)

HBS 68664.


Price: $1,250.00

Item #68664

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