MLK’s Birmingham Jail — a new connection

I have taught Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail to high school students at least a dozen times.  For context, I have shown students the advertisement in the Birmingham paper that criticizes his work as an “outsider.”  Dr. King’s letter is a response to that criticism of his work. 

But for some reason, I never before “got” the compelling detail that MLK was jailed on Good Friday and spent Easter Sunday in jail as well.  I knew that he was leading a protest against segregated department stores, and I knew he targeted the protest for the Easter holiday because that is one of the holidays when people spend the most money.  Such a protest would have more of an economic impact on the store owners.  But somehow, I never thought about MLK sitting in a jail cell on Easter.

How I learned about this: I happened to be in the CA library and I picked up a copy of 50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet.  In its description of why Dr. King is a hero, it noted that “Dr. King was arrested on Good Friday, 1963.  He spent one of the Christian world’s major holy days, Easter Sunday, alone in a jail cell.  There he wrote a famous letter…”

I knew the letter part before, and now my future students will know more of the context.


About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.
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