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For this paper, I am going to analyze King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail and Lincolns’ Inaugural address and discuss how the two connect but also discuss what separates them. In reading, both I felt that many things connected them and they both shared the same purpose. I thought they were well written, and each had its meaning. Although they did have some connections, some things did separate the two.
In both Lincoln’s Inaugural and Kings, they shared the same purpose and goal. The first thing that connects both was that they emphasized on slavery and segregation. They believed that segregation was wrong, and it was time to end the ongoing problem. They felt it was time to act so they wrote these letters to plead for the rights of the oppressed and end segregation. For this reason, King traveled to Birmingham to speak on behalf of the ones that were being persecuted for their race and states his main reason was that injustice was in Birmingham. He wanted to peacefully negotiate for their rights to live freely together with everyone else. In Lincoln’s letter, he also addresses segregation and pleads for the freedom of the ones being slaved and treated poorly. He wanted to end slavery and segregation and believed that those in slavery were also humans and should be equal. He believed that they shouldn’t be separated just for the color of their skin. Lincoln also believed that their lives had the same value as the ones committing the injustice. I believe this is what connects the two because they both spoke up against segregation and slavery.
The second thing that connects the two was their fight for peace and freedom of the oppressed. They both saw slavery as immoral, wrong and a sin before God and it was time to end it. Lincoln and King wanted to make known the injustice that was going on in the country and the problem of slavery. Lincoln believed in equality and sought to gain equal rights for the oppressed. He talks about how those who were under slavery deserve justice for the poor treatment and malice they had to suffer. In one of his statements, I believe that’s what he’s trying to say. He states “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nation”. He’s asking for peace not just for whites but for all even those of color and pushing for equality. He is asking that everyone be able to live amongst each other, not as enemies or segregated but together as one nation.
Third, they both referenced God and scriptures from the bible in their letters. In King’s address, he compared his reason for coming to Birmingham to speak up against injustice and freedom to that of the prophets and Apostle Paul, “just like the prophets of the eighth century B. C. “thus saith the lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world”. King states in the same way he is compelled to carry the gospel of freedom in his hometown. He is trying to spread awareness of the poor treatment of his people and all the violence that they have endured. Lincoln uses biblical scriptures, sin, redemption, religion, and God to make his letter have meaning. He’s using religion as an example to show how one should act and behave as God would want us to and not act in sin. Lincoln believes that the war was because of the sin of slavery. He described the war as a “scourge of war” and believed that it was divine punishment for the sins of slavery.
One thing that separates the two is that King encouraged those who were being oppressed to stand up and act. He set out to protest not violently but peacefully and wanted others to raise their voices and fight against injustice. King felt the way to get their voices heard was to march and protest peacefully. Lincoln did not encourage war or protest and instead wanted to end the war and come to a peaceful ending on both sides. One thing that stood out for me in Lincolns letter is that he had compassion and cared about gaining justice for African Americans. He believed in doing the right thing and fighting for equal rights and giving them value. In Kings’ letter what stood out to me was his willingness to put his life in jeopardy for others. He stood up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves and gave them a voice. Knowing everything that his people endured, death, violence, and injustice, King kept it peaceful and did not want violence. He was willing to negotiate even if it cost him his freedom and from a jail cell he pleaded for their freedom. To me, King was a man of honor as was Lincoln two compassionate men fighting for what is right and standing up against the unethical and immoral. Another thing that stood out to me in King’s letter is when he spoke about unjust and just law. I agree with him when he says that a just law is one that uplifts humanity and unjust is when it degrades human life. Segregation is wrong and should never be justified, as King states “it is unjust, and it distorts the soul and damages the personality”. How can one justify imposing segregation on a certain race and believe it’s right? Segregation creates hate, racism, and distrust of a certain race and it makes them feel less than human. It’s degrading and King is justified in acting and fighting against these laws.
The video clip that I feel adds to my perspective was the video on “Letters from Birmingham Jail”. On January 14th, 1963 Governor George Wallace made a public statement that he would enforce segregation. He stated that there would always be segregation, today, tomorrow and forever. You can see by his statements and the acceptance from the crowd that segregation was a huge issue and accepted by many. I believe King had the right to protest segregation and his civil rights movement was justified. King believed that segregation was a corruption of society and the soul. African Americans suffered brutality by police and other citizens. They were subjected to violence and their homes were burned and the law did nothing to protect them. King wanted to negotiate but as he stated “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed (Letters from Birmingham Jail). Only by protest, marches, and speaking up would make a change.
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