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 U.S. History at Research Triangle High School, a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning.
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