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Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community.In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants—for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs.Left: King is ready for a mug shot in Montgomery, Alabama, after his 1956 arrest while protesting the segregation of the city's buses.
A statement published in This prompted King to write a lengthy response, begun in the margins of the newspaper.
He smuggled it out with the help of his lawyer, and the nearly 7,000 words were transcribed.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham.
But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.
There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community.
Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts.The eloquent call for “constructive, nonviolent tension” to force an end to unjust laws became a landmark document of the civil-rights movement.The letter was printed in part or in full by several publications, including the My Dear Fellow Clergymen: While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas.A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained.As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us.We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations.As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise.If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work.But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.