Dr. Martin Luther King on the Need for Direct Action

Martin Luther King Jr., Letter From Birmingham Jail (April 16, 1963):

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. 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 the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.


One Comment on “Dr. Martin Luther King on the Need for Direct Action”

  1. […] The struggle of Islam in the western countries in the 21st century will be to imbue Muslims in these lands with an authentic and uniquely western vision of Islam. It must be organic – rising from these lands and not cheap copy-pastes or immigrant culture-based Islam. It must flexible and able to adapt to and respond coherently and effectively to the realities on the ground. I’m not really into the TED-talk fad but I listened to one called The End of Men after reading an article by the speaker Hanna Rosin: Are Women Leaving Men Behind? The author is happily married and the mother of boys so she’s not some stereotypical western lesbian man-hating feminist and even if she was, so what? The interesting thing for me about her talk were the phenomenal stats she referenced reflecting the advances women have made in educational, workplace, and personal attainment. In a society like ours, the penalty boxes, balconies, curtains, basements, one-way mirrors and other shady accommodations are no longer going to fly. I’ve made a decision that I’m no longer going to go along with the status quo of poor and inferior treatment of women in our mosques. Drawing strength not only from our religious sources but also in this week where we reflect on the life and passing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. his words still inspire me to great hope and action. […]

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