27 Letter From Birmingham Jail Quotes

On April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama for protesting segregation.

He was placed in solitary confinement in the city jail and began to write a letter to local clergymen who had criticized his methods.

The letter, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” was published in The Atlantic Monthly in August 1963.

In it, King defends his tactics and argues that the African American community must use whatever means necessary to achieve equality.

This article contains some of the famous quotes in Letter from Birmingham Jail. Check them out!

Letter From Birmingham Jail Quotes

1. I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.

2. One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.

3. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

3. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

4. 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 nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

5. Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

6. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

7. So I have tried to make it clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.

8. The early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles o popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.

9. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.

10.  Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. 

11.  I must confess that I am not afraid of the word ‘tension.’ 

12. Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. 

13.  Justice too long delayed is justice denied. 

14. A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law. 

15.  Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. 

16.  Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. 

17.  I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. 

18.  I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. 

19. Maybe I was too optimistic. Maybe I expected too much. 

20.  The judgment of God is upon the church as never before. 

21.  I can’t join you in your praise for the police department. 

22. It is just as wrong … to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. 

23.  They were, in reality standing up for the best of the American dream. 

24. I’m afraid that it is much too long to take your precious time. 

25. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?

26. In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham.”

27. “My feet are tired, but my soul is at rest.”


King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” is a vital document highlighting African Americans’ struggles during the Civil Rights Movement. The letter is full of powerful quotes illustrating King’s points, and it is a must-read for anyone interested in American history.

You can also check out: 100 Inspiring You Deserve The Best Quotes

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