Letter from a Birmingham Jail (CBR10 #3)

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Sometimes it pays to remember the good ideas cannonballers and friends have so you can steal them outright to suit your purposes. You all should go back and read denesteak’s brilliant review from last January, she unpacks the world through her powerful viewpoint and it is more than worth your time. When I had a few hours to myself on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the States I remembered Dene’s review and the fact that I’m supposed to be finding a single sitting book for the Read Harder Challenge and off to the internet I went.

I am ashamed to admit that I had previously never read Dr. King’s full letter.  Unfortunately this work is as prescient as it was nearly 55 years ago when Dr. King was imprisoned in the jail in Bombingham. As I mentioned, I intentionally read it all in one go for the Read Harder Challenge and it felt like being hit repeatedly by waves. My favorite thing to do at the beach (besides read under an umbrella) is to jump waves. Sometimes they lift you up, if you time your jump just right you feel as if you are flying. However, if you mistime your jump, or if the wave is too large, you are slammed by the force of nature and sent sputtering towards shore, spitting water as you resurface.

What Dr. King was saying in this supremely eloquent letter gave much the same feeling. I was lifted by his resilience, by his steadfast knowledge of the rightness of his actions. I was also slammed back towards shore with how little has really been accomplished. It has been swirling around me for quite a while, all that remains undone and all those who could and should be doing more. Moderate whites (whom Dr. King calls out in some of the most stirring language in the letter) still do not pull their weight. I hope that you will take the time and read the full work. It is tempting to feel as though you know what Dr. King has said because so many famous quotes are pulled from this piece of writing. But Dr. King was a titan of oratory and this letter builds and builds and builds to a crescendo of meaning, and as Dene points out, supreme amounts of shade.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money for the American Cancer Society in the name of a fallen friend. Join us, won’t you?


About Katie

Museum professional, caffeine junkie, book lover, student of history, overall goofball.

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