July 27 2021
Letter from Birmingham Jail, by Martin Luther King, Jr
Title: Letter from Birmingham Jail
Author: Martin Luther King, Jr
Genre/ issues: Non fiction. Civil rights.
The Penguin Modern collection is a fantastic set of books from ground-breaking writers, presenting a distilled hit of their work, philosophies and ideas. I’m aiming to read one a night – most nights, anyway! I might as well come out of lockdown a little bit more enlightened and informed, right? The first book in the collection is Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which includes both the letter he wrote in the margins of a newspaper whilst in jail in 1963, and Three Dimensions of a Complete life, first delivered as a sermon in 1967.
What struck me as I read this was that I’d probably have considered myself familiar with King’s work and influence. I know the famous speeches. I’m aware of his impact and importance in the civil rights movement. But outside those sound bites, I’ve not actually read any of his other writings. And wow, can he write. There’s a power and poetry to his words. But what hit me the most about this was the tragedy of it. That almost 60 years later, what he’s arguing for and pleading for is still so desperately needed. His description of the immorality of the way Birmingham police treated people of colour in the midst of non-violent protest could so easily have been applied to scenes from a BLM march today. This reminded me that I have a part to play. We all do. A powerful little read. Next time you’re placing an online order for books, check this series out – at only $2.50 a book, they’re well worth it!