Book Review: Letter From Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Letter From Birmingham Jail
by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Publication date: February 22nd 2018
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Pages: 64

Penguin Modern Series #01


‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’

This landmark missive from one of the greatest activists in history calls for direct, non-violent resistance in the fight against racism, and reflects on the healing power of love.

This edition also contains the sermon ‘The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life’.

Penguin Modern: fifty new books celebrating the pioneering spirit of the iconic Penguin Modern Classics series, with each one offering a concentrated hit of its contemporary, international flavour. Here are authors ranging from Kathy Acker to James Baldwin, Truman Capote to Stanislaw Lem and George Orwell to Shirley Jackson; essays radical and inspiring; poems moving and disturbing; stories surreal and fabulous; taking us from the deep South to modern Japan, New York’s underground scene to the farthest reaches of outer space.

Source: Goodreads


The first in Penguin Modern Series is ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail’ written by Martin Luther King Jr. in the margins of a newspaper while he was imprisoned in in 1936. This letter is a response to criticism from clergymen in Alabama who ‘argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought in the courts – not the streets.”

“One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

King defends his actions and opinions with composure, creating such a compelling and powerful letter written from the heart, now considered his most influential written work. And while now this writing is historic, the topics that it covers are still worryingly current and this is an important read for all.

The second essay in this book didn’t move me as much as the first. ‘The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life’ is a snippet of King’s recorded speech, giving a more philosophical and religious take on life. I think probably listening to this would be more powerful that reading it but it’s only short so this isn’t a major problem. For £1, this really is a recommended read!

Overall rating: This little book contains a highly influential and powerful piece of writing in Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail”. This is a tiny book at a tiny price so I’d definitely recommend you pick it up if you haven’t already read it.

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