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Video transcript

what we're going to read together in this video is what has become known as Martin Luther King's letter from a Birmingham jail which he wrote from a jail cell in 1963 after he and several of his associates were arrested in Birmingham Alabama as they non-violently protested segregation there and I'm going to read an excerpt of it I encourage you to read it in its entirety it is one of the most powerful documents frankly I have ever read and Martin Luther King often gets a lot of credit as an amazing speaker people say he could read the phone book and it would move people but this also speaks to what an incredible writer he was not only is it moving but it really gives the philosophical underpinnings of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and many people attribute the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed by Congress as being heavily influenced by Martin Luther King's letter now what motivated Martin Luther King to write this letter was a statement made in a newspaper by eight Alabama clergymen which encouraged the protesters to wait saying that yes we are sympathetic to the in justices but they should be resolved in the courts and not through the type of protest the type of tension that Martin Luther King and his fellow protesters were creating and so here's just an excerpt of what Martin Luther King wrote you may well ask why direct action why sit-ins marches and so forth isn't negotiation a better path you're 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 attention that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue it seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored my citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resistor 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 so must we see the need for non-violent 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 guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts 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 brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity 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 in your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television 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 then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait I've read this many times but every time I read it and this is just an excerpt it as you can tell it's incredibly powerful and encourage you to read it in its entirety and think about why this was such a powerful document especially for catalyzing things like the Civil Rights Act of 1964