Thoughts on Dr King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

For the past few years, I’ve made it a personal duty to read Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” each MLK day.  It takes me nearly half an hour to read it.  Today I looked at some other sources and found a video re-enactment of his letter, along with some video clips of the issues he addresses and the audio of the letter to the newspaper written by Birmingham clergymen that prompted the writing of his letter.

This letter was written in 1963, the year Jean and I married.  It reminds me of how far our nation has come, of how far we still have to go, and of the price good people are willing to pay to find freedom.  It convicts me of the complacency that often comes with privilege.

This morning, as I read the letter again, I felt strongly to share it on social media and to share it with my daughters and their husbands.  My grandsons are only seven and five years old now, but I’m thinking that as they get older, we could and should find some creative ways to help them understand the privilege they have as white, middle-class Americans, the inequalities that still exist, and the price others have paid in the on-going fight for freedom and equality.

The letter takes me almost 30 minutes to read to myself.  This video, which contains the audio of the clergy letter and a video re-enactment of Dr King’s letter is about 56 minutes long.

I hope you can find some creative ways to stay aware of our privilege of position and race and other’s pain and sacrifice and that you can find creative ways to help your kids understand and care.

See video links below:

Grace and peace,

Jim Stephens

Letter from a Birmingham Jail video

Letter from a Birmingham Jail full text of speech


One Reply to “Thoughts on Dr King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail””

  1. Jim,
    Thanks for your faithful ministry. I was so pleased to see you and Jean at the reunion and to see you in such good health. While race relations have improved dramatically, there are places where prejudice runs deeply, especially against the black community. In the Los Angeles area where I live, it is a real melting pot of races. Almost 60 different languages spoken in the area with the largest Cambodian population in the U.S. resides in Long Beach and nearby Westminster in Orange County has the largest Vietnamese populations in the U.S. Not to mention that Hispanics outnumber all other races in L.A. County.
    While I was director of Pharmacy Operations for Vons/Safeway for all of the bottom half of the state, we employed a couple of dozen different races as pharmacists and technicians. Since I have been with my girlfriend Lynda, I have experienced the black culture from the very lowest to those in high office. All people, laugh, cry, hurt, and love the same, there is no difference but the outward appearance.
    Thank God that he looks at the heart and not the appearance of man. We should do likewise. We all need His saving grace and mercy for the heart of man is evil beyond all understanding. As society removes God from our culture, he will remove Himself as a perfect gentleman and grant their wishes. But that vacuum will be filled with all sorts of prejudice and evil I am afraid.

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