WHILE confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities "unwise
and untimely." Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all of the criticisms
that cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else 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 your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like
to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of "outsiders
coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating
in every Southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliate organizations all across the
South, one being the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Whenever necessary and possible, we share staff,
educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago our local affiliate here in Birmingham invited us to be
on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour
came we lived up to our promises. So I am here, along with several members of my staff, because we were invited here. I amhere because I have basic organizational ties here.
Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried
their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of
Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled
to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must...