Blog History Teachers

Socratic Seminar: Letter From A Birmingham Jail

  1. Who is Dr. King’s audience? What is his purpose in writing this letter?
  2. Why is Dr. King in Birmingham?
    1. Read and Discuss: “Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”
  3. Why does Dr. King believe in creating tension within society? How does tension foster change?
  4. Evaluate Dr. King’s argument against those who are calling for the African American community to wait for civil rights.
  5. King’s letter has been labeled as a brilliant example of the use of logos, pathos, and ethos. Can you find examples in the text where he uses logos, pathos, or ethos?
  6. How does Dr. King justify his breaking of the law? Do you agree with his argument?
  7. How does segregation distort the soul?
  8. Why are white moderates a stumbling block to freedom for the African American community?
  9. Dr. King points to a tragic misconception of time. What is he arguing here?
  10. Dr. King says he stands between two forces in the African American community. What are these forces?
  11. Why is Dr. King okay with being labeled an extremist?

You can find the full text here.