Letter From
Birmingham City Jail

Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 16, 1963


Discussion Questions

1. What are the four basic steps in a non-violent campaign? Is it necessary to go through each step?

2. Why is direct action a necessary prelude to negotiation?

3. Why does King argue that the white southern moderate may be more of a threat to African Americans than the Ku Klux Klan?

4. King claims that his position is that of a moderate, not an extremist. Explain.

Paper Topics
1. At the beginning of his letter King suggests that negotiation should take place before resorting to direct action, but later he says that direction action will lead to negotiation. Is this a contradiction?

2. Would King approve of violence if non-violent methods failed to produce results?

3. King asks his audience to move beyond the legal question of civil rights to the moral question. Is this move necessary? Are there any dangers in this approach?

Letter from Birminham Jail Reading

Guide to unit 4

back to unit 4