Talk:Letter from Birmingham Jail

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Letter not PD[edit]

I removed the letter itself from the article, as King apparently didn't release it into the public domain. dbenbenn | talk 18:36, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Should this link be included, I added it but it was taken out.

It's the letter sent from the clergy which I think helps the reader understand the article. 23:19, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I agree. Just remember to capitalize it and spell statement correctly.

Considering the frequent references to Saint Augustine within the text, I'll add him as a reference used by MLK.

The only quotation King uses from Augustine is "An unjust law is no law at all", however, Augustine's philosophy of creating a "City of God" on earth is frequently referenced throughout King's letter.

I'm interested in what knowledge user 'Dbenbenn' has about King not releasing the Letter into public domain. The fact that it was published in multiple journals shows some trend toward the thought of it being public domain, as (to me at least) the use of the term "open". I have a copy in front of me of the June, 1963 edition of "Liberation" magazine which was arguably the first to hit the newsstands. There is no claim of copyright in the issue for the Letter or any other content for that matter. This was a publication that King had written for several times before and he should/could have noticed that they never claimed any copyright in the issues. I'd like to hear a wider variety of opinions on the status of the Letter, rather than just one individual not noticing if King regarded this as PD or not.Erikdhanson (talk) 19:58, 16 August 2009 (UTC)


I'm rather disturbed by this article, and the article on the "I Have a Dream" speech, in their insistence on brushing off King's speeches with the dismissive epithet of "rhetoric". The "rhetorical analysis" linked at the bottom of this article, for instance, improperly labels many of King's reasoned points as "appeals to emotion". (For example, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justive everywhere" - emotional and moving, yes, but it is a direct reference to the axiomatic, corruptive nature of injustice, and, in the context in which King used it, is part of a reasoned argument against allowing injustice to persist, not just an appeal to knee-jerk sentiment.)

Perhaps I've failed to see something, but when I read the text of these speeches, I see rational arguments. They first explain what the problem is and then to explain the solution. Letter from Birmingham Jail goes further, to explain what time frame the solution must be adopted within (immediately). It is true that these arguments are intersperhmt hy yhy hy hsed with poetic flights of fancy (the "let freedom ring" repetition, for instance), but anyone who thinks that these phrases alone can render the whole speeches into inconsequentiality is terribly mistaken.

It has to be remembered that King was a religious leader and man of god first, and many of his arguments are based on reasoning from "moral law", which is not universally accepted. They are rational arguments, nonetheless. So I ask, how else can a speech or argument be labelled other than from the viewpoint of its intended effect and audience? How can the speeches be dismissed as rhetoric when they speak so clearly of the careful reasoning of a methodical mind? -Kasreyn 15:19, 12 February 2006 (UTC)

  • I agree that King's arguments were rationally constructed. I suggest that "appeals to emotion" and "rationally constructed arguments" are not mutually exclusive categories and that "rhetoric" is not a dismissive categorization. The American Heritage dictionary gives 4 definitions, of which only 3.b. has negative connotations. The primary definition is "the art or study of using language effectively and persuasively." -- Dystopos 17:35, 12 February 2006 (UTC)
The Greeks believed that arguments had three major aspects: appeals to logic, appeals to emotion and reaffirmation of the writer's integrity and dedication to the argument. King was a master at all three. The word "rhetoric" is not a negative word but a throwback to the ancient days of a well-crafted argument. This letter is masterful. (talk) 18:39, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

Third reference relevant?[edit]

The citation to a NY Times announcement that the New Leader, a socialist magazine, seems odd. Can anyone explain? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Sdinsmore (talkcontribs) 02:57:59, August 19, 2007 (UTC).

Comment from Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Alabama[edit]

I would like to see this article expanded. I would be interested to know the effect of King's letter. Was it effective in convincing ministers, church members, etc, that he was not being impatient and that his cause was just? Obviously today we agree with King, but I wonder how well it worked then. I did appreciate that the article lists where the letter was published because I had wondered how widely disseminated it was. I also think that if this article linked to an article discussing the nature and overall results of the Birmingham demonstrations, that would be worthwhile. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:05, 23 April 2009 (UTC)

  • I added a link to the featured Birmingham campaign article. --Dystopos (talk) 19:09, 27 April 2009 (UTC)
  • I have added a reference that the Letter (as well as the clergymen's letter) was published in the June, 1963 issue of 'Liberation', a journal widely distributed among Civil Rights and Anti-War activists both in the US and abroad. Erikdhanson (talk) 20:04, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

Another name?[edit]

This letter also goes by the name "The Negro Is Your Brother." Someone should change it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:06, 28 September 2010 (UTC)

"Outside agitator"[edit]

The article says that King was called an "outside agitator," with this phrase in quotes, in the letter from the Birmingham clergy. The letter from the clergy (from the link in the article) does not contain that phrase. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:18, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

The quote comes from King's letter, not the original pastors' letter, which merely refers to King as an "outsider". I'll edit the article to make this clearer. — Malik Shabazz Talk/Stalk 03:34, 17 January 2012 (UTC)