Martin Luther King Letter From Birmingham Jail 340 words

  1. segregate
    divide from the main body or mass and collect
    Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States.
  2. tension
    the action of stretching something tight
    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.
  3. categorize
    place into or assign to a category
    But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label.
  4. scintillate
    emit or reflect light in a flickering manner
    Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
  5. structured
    having definite and highly organized structure
    Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?
  6. categorized
    arranged into categories
    But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label.
  7. precipitate
    bring about abruptly
    In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence.
  8. humiliate
    cause to feel shame; hurt the pride of
    In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants--for example, to remove the stores' humiliating racial signs.
  9. creatively
    in a creative manner
    We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.
  10. commend
    present as worthy of regard, kindness, or confidence
    I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis.
  11. relegate
    assign to a lower position; reduce in rank
    Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things.
  12. action
    something done (usually as opposed to something said)
    Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary.
  13. community
    a group of people living in a particular local area
    Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states.
  14. integrating
    the action of incorporating a racial or religious group into a community
    I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.
  15. creative
    having the ability or power to create
    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.
  16. sanctimonious
    excessively or hypocritically pious
    In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.
  17. demonstration
    a show or display; the act of presenting something to sight or view
    You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham.
  18. oppress
    come down on or keep down by unjust use of one's authority
    We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
  19. existential
    relating to or dealing with existence (especially with human existence)
    Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness?
  20. inevitability
    the quality of being unavoidable
    Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.
  21. urge
    force or impel in an indicated direction
    Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws.
  22. consistently
    in a systematic or consistent manner
    But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.
  23. engulf
    flow over or cover completely
    There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community.
  24. reiterate
    to say, state, or perform again
    But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church.
  25. demonstrator
    someone who participates in a public display of group feeling
    It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators.
  26. voluntarily
    out of your own free will
    Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.
  27. advocate
    a person who pleads for a cause or propounds an idea
    One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?"
  28. forebear
    a person from whom you are descended
    For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop.
  29. gadfly
    any of various large flies that annoy livestock
    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.
  30. nonconformist
    someone who refuses to conform to established standards of conduct
    How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.
  31. complacency
    the feeling you have when you are satisfied with yourself
    One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses.
  32. mores
    (sociology) the conventions that embody the fundamental values of a group
    In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.
  33. formulation
    inventing or contriving an idea or explanation and formulating it mentally
    One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
  34. cognizant
    (sometimes followed by `of') having or showing knowledge or understanding or realization or perception
    Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states.
  35. create
    bring into existence
    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.
  36. moral
    concerned with principles of right and wrong or conforming to standards of behavior and character based on those principles
    Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
  37. terminology
    a system of words used to name things in a particular discipline
    Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things.
  38. integrate
    make into a whole or make part of a whole
    I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.
  39. dramatize
    put into dramatic form
    It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.
  40. status
    a state at a particular time
    While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo.
  41. engage
    consume all of one's attention or time
    Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary.
  42. constructive
    constructing or tending to construct or improve or promote development
    If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work.
  43. ordinance
    an authoritative rule
    Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.
  44. paralyze
    cause to be paralyzed and immobile
    But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom.
  45. conversely
    with the terms of the relation reversed
    Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.
  46. swelter
    be uncomfortably hot
    On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward.
  47. rabid
    marked by excessive enthusiasm for and intense devotion to a cause or idea
    In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist.
  48. catapult
    an engine that provided medieval artillery used during sieges; a heavy war engine for hurling large stones and other missiles
    When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church.
  49. unfettered
    not bound by shackles and chains
    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.
  50. inevitably
    in such a manner as could not be otherwise
    The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.
  51. excruciating
    extremely painful
    It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire.
  52. gainsay
    take exception to
    There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community.
  53. passively
    in a passive manner
    I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality.
  54. structure
    a thing constructed; a complex entity constructed of many parts
    It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
  55. code
    a set of rules or principles or laws (especially written ones)
    A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.
  56. blatant
    without any attempt at concealment; completely obvious
    In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.
  57. intimidate
    to compel or deter by or as if by threats
    They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated."
  58. nation
    a politically organized body of people under a single government
    There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation.
  59. moratorium
    suspension of an ongoing activity
    On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations.
  60. incorrigible
    impervious to correction by punishment
    Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."
  61. nurture
    provide with nourishment
    I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.
  62. retaliate
    make a counterattack and return like for like, especially evil for evil
    We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?"
  63. evidenced
    supported by evidence
    It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake.
  64. frustrate
    hinder or prevent (the efforts, plans, or desires) of
    Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
  65. negotiate
    discuss the terms of an arrangement
    On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers.
  66. tragic
    very sad; especially involving grief or death or destruction
    Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
  67. seek
    try to locate or discover, or try to establish the existence of
    If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work.
  68. clarion
    loud and clear
    Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred?
  69. negative
    characterized by or displaying negation or denial or opposition or resistance; having no positive features
    I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who pat...
  70. devious
    deviating from a straight course
    Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered.
  71. legal
    established by or founded upon law or official or accepted rules
    My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure.
  72. distort
    twist and press out of shape
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why s...
  73. emulate
    strive to equal or match, especially by imitating
    I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist.
  74. struggle
    strenuous effort
    I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom.
  75. persecute
    cause to suffer
    Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."
  76. symbolize
    express indirectly by an image, form, or model; be a symbol
    They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest."
  77. minority
    being or relating to the smaller in number of two parts
    An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself.
  78. amaze
    affect with wonder
    I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation.
  79. massive
    consisting of great mass; containing a great quantity of matter
    I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation.
  80. repudiate
    refuse to acknowledge, ratify, or recognize as valid
    Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."
  81. registered
    listed or recorded officially
    Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered.
  82. civil
    of or occurring within the state or between or among citizens of the state
    But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights.
  83. commitment
    the act of binding yourself (intellectually or emotionally) to a course of action
    Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock?
  84. tortuous
    marked by repeated turns and bends
    They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom.
  85. elegy
    a mournful poem; a lament for the dead
    Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood.
  86. substantive
    having a firm basis in reality and being therefore important, meaningful, or considerable
    I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality.
  87. academic
    associated with academia or an academy
    To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience.
  88. degrade
    reduce in worth or character, usually verbally
    Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.
  89. integral
    existing as an essential constituent or characteristic
    I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.
  90. grapple
    come to terms with
    I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.
  91. dedicate
    give entirely to a specific person, activity, or cause
    While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo.
  92. stance
    a rationalized mental attitude
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why s...
  93. complacent
    contented to a fault with oneself or one's actions
    I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist.
  94. concoct
    make a concoction (of) by mixing
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why s...
  95. antidote
    a remedy that stops or controls the effects of a poison
    Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.
  96. ideology
    an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or nation
    And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies--a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
  97. illegal
    prohibited by law or by official or accepted rules
    We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal."
  98. aided
    having help; often used as a combining form
    Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.
  99. indicate
    indicate a place, direction, person, or thing; either spatially or figuratively
    I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in."
  100. despair
    a state in which all hope is lost or absent
    There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.
  101. affluent
    having an abundant supply of money or possessions of value
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughte...
  102. goal
    the state of affairs that a plan is intended to achieve and that (when achieved) terminates behavior intended to achieve it
    I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who pat...
  103. mythical
    based on or told of in traditional stories; lacking factual basis or historical validity
    I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalis...
  104. deplore
    express strong disapproval of
    You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham.
  105. millennium
    a span of 1000 years
    We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham.
  106. irrational
    not consistent with or using reason
    Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills.
  107. dismiss
    stop associating with
    And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies--a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
  108. initially
    at the beginning
    But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label.
  109. register
    an official written record of names or events or transactions
    Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered.
  110. preserve
    keep in safety and protect from harm, decay, loss, or destruction
    Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times.
  111. recognize
    perceive to be the same
    If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place.
  112. evade
    avoid or try to avoid fulfilling, answering, or performing (duties, questions, or issues)
    In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist.
  113. prod
    to push against gently
    The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act.
  114. parade
    a ceremonial procession including people marching
    For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit.
  115. economically
    in an economical manner
    Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful.
  116. obnoxious
    causing disapproval or protest
    I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality.
  117. devotee
    an ardent follower and admirer
    But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights.
  118. majority
    the property resulting from being or relating to the greater in number of two parts; the main part
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughte...
  119. irrelevant
    having no bearing on or connection with the subject at issue
    If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.
  120. stumble
    miss a step and fall or nearly fall
    I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who pat...
  121. convince
    make (someone) agree, understand, or realize the truth or validity of something
    If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood.
  122. issue
    some situation or event that is thought about
    When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene "Bull" Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues.
  123. unique
    the single one of its kind
    Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion?
  124. notable
    worthy of notice
    Of course, there are some notable exceptions.
  125. affirm
    to declare or affirm solemnly and formally as true
    We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence.
  126. resentment
    a feeling of deep and bitter anger and ill-will
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why s...
  127. individual
    being or characteristic of a single thing or person
    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.
  128. ineffectual
    not producing an intended effect
    So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound.
  129. economic
    of or relating to an economy, the system of production and management of material wealth
    Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham's economic community.
  130. analysis
    the abstract separation of a whole into its constituent parts in order to study the parts and their relations
    I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.
  131. privilege
    a special advantage or immunity or benefit not enjoyed by all
    Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.
  132. oppose
    be against; express opposition to
    I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.
  133. admonish
    take to task
    I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother."
  134. integration
    the act of combining into an integral whole
    I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother."
  135. concern
    something that interests you because it is important or affects you
    I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham.
  136. solace
    comfort in disappointment or misery
    And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies--a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
  137. degenerate
    a person whose behavior deviates from what is acceptable especially in sexual behavior
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why s...
  138. aid
    the activity of contributing to the fulfillment of a need or furtherance of an effort or purpose
    Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
  139. environment
    the totality of surrounding conditions
    Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment.
  140. alternative
    one of a number of things from which only one can be chosen
    It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
  141. infest
    occupy in large numbers or live on a host
    They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger-lovers."
  142. transform
    change or alter in form, appearance, or nature
    Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood.
  143. latent
    potentially existing but not presently evident or realized
    The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them.
  144. inflict
    impose something unpleasant
    A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law.
  145. remind
    put in the mind of someone
    Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
  146. underlying
    being or involving basic facts or principles
    I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.
  147. languish
    become feeble
    They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger-lovers."
  148. devise
    a will disposing of real property
    A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law.
  149. rejection
    the act of rejecting something
    Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
  150. conformity
    correspondence in form or appearance
    But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom.
  151. peaceful
    not disturbed by strife or turmoil or war
    But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.
  152. pierce
    penetrate or cut through with a sharp instrument
    It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity.
  153. constitutional
    existing as an essential constituent or characteristic
    We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights.
  154. anarchy
    a state of lawlessness and disorder (usually resulting from a failure of government)
    That would lead to anarchy.
  155. founding
    the act of starting something for the first time; introducing something new
    One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
  156. prophetic
    foretelling events as if by supernatural intervention
    Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle--have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms.
  157. jeer
    laugh at with contempt and derision
    They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer.
  158. creator
    a person who grows or makes or invents things
    Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension.
  159. endure
    undergo or be subjected to
    "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?"
  160. concur
    happen simultaneously
    I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation.
  161. filthy
    disgustingly dirty; filled or smeared with offensive matter
    They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger-lovers."
  162. labored
    requiring or showing effort
    For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop.
  163. thereby
    by that means or because of that
    The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment.
  164. sacred
    made or declared or believed to be holy; devoted to a deity or some religious ceremony or use
    And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.
  165. release
    grant freedom to; free from confinement
    The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them.
  166. compel
    force somebody to do something
    Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town.
  167. console
    give moral or emotional strength to
    Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.
  168. bondage
    the state of being under the control of another person
    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.
  169. whim
    an odd or fanciful or capricious idea
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughte...
  170. positive
    characterized by or displaying affirmation or acceptance or certainty etc.
    I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who pat...
  171. arouse
    call forth (emotions, feelings, and responses)
    I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.
  172. prejudice
    a partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation
    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.
  173. abyss
    a bottomless gulf or pit; any unfathomable (or apparently unfathomable) cavity or chasm or void extending below (often used figuratively)
    There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.
  174. adjusted
    altered to accommodate to certain requirements or bring into a proper relation
    One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses.
  175. underlie
    lie underneath
    I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.
  176. dire
    fraught with extreme danger; nearly hopeless
    Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
  177. sought
    that is looked for
    If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work.
  178. superficial
    of, affecting, or being on or near the surface
    I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.
  179. eventually
    after an unspecified period of time or an especially long delay
    He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry.
  180. deem
    keep in mind or convey as a conviction or view
    Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary.
  181. deny
    declare untrue; contradict
    We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."
  182. ordeal
    a severe or trying experience
    "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?"
  183. cease
    put an end to a state or an activity
    Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion?
  184. security
    the state of being free from danger or injury
    One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses.
  185. remove
    remove something concrete, as by lifting, pushing, or taking off, or remove something abstract
    In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants--for example, to remove the stores' humiliating racial signs.
  186. secular
    someone who is not a clergyman or a professional person
    And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.
  187. posture
    the arrangement of the body and its limbs
    Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
  188. ominous
    threatening or foreshadowing evil or tragic developments
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why s...
  189. respond
    show a response or a reaction to something
    Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
  190. settle
    become resolved, fixed, established, or quiet
    As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us.
  191. discrimination
    unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice
    Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."
  192. repress
    conceal or hide
    If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history.
  193. impel
    urge or force (a person) to an action; constrain or motivate
    Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly.
  194. forfeit
    lose (s.th.) or lose the right to (s.th.) by some error, offense, or crime
    If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.
  195. nourish
    provide with nourishment
    Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."
  196. threat
    declaration of an intention or a determination to inflict harm on another
    Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
  197. plight
    a situation from which extrication is difficult especially an unpleasant or trying one
    I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality.
  198. embody
    represent in bodily form
    We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.
  199. persistent
    stubbornly unyielding
    I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action.
  200. emerge
    come out into view, as from concealment
    If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood.
  201. ignore
    refuse to acknowledge
    It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.
  202. channel
    a deep and relatively narrow body of water (as in a river or a harbor or a strait linking two larger bodies) that allows the best passage for vessels
    Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action.
  203. distinction
    a discrimination between things as different and distinct
    I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out.
  204. transition
    the act of passing from one state or place to the next
    I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality.
  205. respect
    regard highly; think much of
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why s...
  206. consider
    think about carefully; weigh
    Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
  207. grievance
    a complaint about a (real or imaginary) wrong that causes resentment and is grounds for action
    In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure.
  208. seldom
    not often
    Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas.
  209. support
    the act of bearing the weight of or strengthening
    And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies--a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
  210. outcome
    something that results
    I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood.
  211. confine
    place limits on (extent or access)
    My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
    While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely."
  212. submit
    yield to the control of another
    I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.
  213. query
    an instance of questioning
    The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act.
  214. convinced
    having a strong belief or conviction
    If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood.
  215. concept
    an abstract or general idea inferred or derived from specific instances
    I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalis...
  216. thrive
    make steady progress; be at the high point in one's career or reach a high point in historical significance or importance
    For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop.
  217. expose
    to show, make visible or apparent
    Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
  218. appall
    strike with disgust or revulsion
    We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
  219. maintenance
    activity involved in maintaining something in good working order
    While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo.
  220. schedule
    an ordered list of times at which things are planned to occur
    We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year.
  221. comply
    act in accordance with someone's rules, commands, or wishes
    I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother."
  222. logical
    based on known statements or events or conditions
    But is this a logical assertion?
  223. devote
    dedicate
    I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who pat...
  224. observe
    watch attentively
    I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together.
  225. exposure
    the state of being vulnerable or exposed
    Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
  226. yearn
    desire strongly or persistently
    The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro.
  227. transformed
    given a completely different form or appearance
    In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.
  228. scar
    a mark left (usually on the skin) by the healing of injured tissue
    How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.
  229. ignored
    disregarded
    It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.
  230. plunge
    dash violently or with great speed or impetuosity
    There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.
  231. foster
    providing or receiving nurture or parental care though not related by blood or legal ties
    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.
  232. neutral
    having no personal preference
    Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively.
  233. philosophical
    of or relating to philosophy or philosophers
    Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock?
  234. ripe
    fully developed or matured and ready to be eaten or used
    We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.
  235. breadth
    the extent of something from side to side
    I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states.
  236. cautious
    showing careful forethought
    Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.
  237. eloquent
    expressing yourself readily, clearly, effectively
    Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle--have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms.
  238. worldly
    characteristic of or devoted to the temporal world as opposed to the spiritual world
    And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.
  239. defiance
    a hostile challenge
    Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred?
  240. rejoice
    feel happiness or joy
    There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed.
  241. objective
    the goal intended to be attained (and which is believed to be attainable)
    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.
  242. quest
    the act of searching for something
    We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence.
  243. degree
    a specific identifiable position in a continuum or series or especially in a process
    To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience.
  244. cage
    an enclosure made or wire or metal bars in which birds or animals can be kept
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughte...
  245. supreme
    greatest in status or authority or power
    Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws.
  246. experience
    the content of direct observation or participation in an event
    Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts.
  247. confess
    admit (to a wrongdoing)
    But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension."
  248. statute
    an act passed by a legislative body
    All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.
  249. label
    a brief description given for purposes of identification
    But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label.
  250. provincial
    of or associated with a province
    Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea.
  251. sublime
    of high moral or intellectual value; elevated in nature or style
    I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation.
  252. plague
    any large scale calamity (especially when thought to be sent by God)
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why s...
  253. harry
    make a pillaging or destructive raid on (a place), as in wartimes
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why s...
  254. adjust
    alter or regulate so as to achieve accuracy or conform to a standard
    One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses.
  255. substitute
    a person or thing that takes or can take the place of another
    Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things.
  256. shallow
    lacking physical depth; having little spatial extension downward or inward from an outer surface or backward or outward from a center
    Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
  257. survive
    continue in existence after (an adversity, etc.)
    And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free."
  258. involve
    contain as a part
    Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification.
  259. operate
    perform as expected when applied
    I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
  260. commit
    engage in or perform
    I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it.
  261. sustained
    maintained at length without interruption or weakening
    I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.
  262. affect
    have an effect upon
    Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
  263. pioneer
    one the first colonists or settlers in a new territory
    They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer.
  264. briefly
    for a short time
    A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained.
  265. century
    a period of 100 years
    Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town.
  266. cite
    make reference to
    My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking.
  267. pious
    having or showing or expressing reverence for a deity
    In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.
  268. sanction
    official permission or approval
    Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.
  269. comfort
    a state of being relaxed and feeling no pain
    It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany.
  270. drain
    emptying something accomplished by allowing liquid to run out of it
    One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses.
  271. phase
    any distinct time period in a sequence of events
    I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality.
  272. narrow
    not wide
    Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea.
  273. constitute
    form or compose
    Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered.
  274. conclude
    bring to a close
    Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."
  275. realm
    a domain in which something is dominant
    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.
  276. convenient
    suited to your comfort or purpose or needs
    I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalis...
  277. confront
    oppose, as in hostility or a competition
    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.
  278. maintain
    keep in a certain state, position, or activity; e.g., "keep clean"
    But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.
  279. practice
    a customary way of operation or behavior
    It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire.
  280. remain
    continue in a place, position, or situation
    A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained.
  281. progress
    the act of moving forward (as toward a goal)
    I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.
  282. develop
    grow, progress, unfold, or evolve through a process of evolution, natural growth, differentiation, or a conducive environment
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why s...
  283. outline
    the line that appears to bound an object
    I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings.
  284. decree
    a legally binding command or decision entered on the court record (as if issued by a court or judge)
    I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother."
  285. administration
    the act of governing; exercising authority
    Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?"
  286. permit
    allow the presence of or allow (an activity) without opposing or prohibiting
    For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit.
  287. method
    a way of doing something, especially a systematic way; implies an orderly logical arrangement (usually in steps)
    Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered.
  288. equal
    having the same quantity, value, or measure as another
    He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry.
  289. amendment
    a statement that is added to or revises or improves a proposal or document (a bill or constitution etc.)
    But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.
  290. suppress
    to put down by force or authority
    If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws.
  291. employ
    put into service; make work or employ for a particular purpose or for its inherent or natural purpose
    And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies--a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
  292. significant
    rich in significance or implication
    I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue.
  293. receive
    get something; come into possession of
    I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas.
  294. campaign
    several related operations aimed at achieving a particular goal (usually within geographical and temporal constraints)
    In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action.
  295. circumstances
    your overall circumstances or condition in life (including everything that happens to you)
    Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?
  296. stem
    cylinder forming a long narrow part of something
    Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills.
  297. course
    a connected series of events or actions or developments
    If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work.
  298. hostile
    characterized by enmity or ill will
    They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer.
  299. college
    an institution of higher education created to educate and grant degrees; often a part of a university
    I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.
  300. sting
    deliver a sting to
    Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait."
  301. healthy
    having or indicating good health in body or mind; free from infirmity or disease
    Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action.
  302. vital
    performing an essential function in the living body
    If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place.
  303. contemporary
    occurring in the same period of time
    So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound.
  304. view
    the visual percept of a region
    I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in."
  305. corner
    the point where three areas or surfaces meet or intersect
    Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town.
  306. present
    temporal sense; intermediate between past and future; now existing or happening or in consideration
    My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
    While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely."
  307. genuine
    not fake or counterfeit
    But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.
  308. grateful
    feeling or showing gratitude
    I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.
  309. blast
    a sudden very loud noise
    As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us.
  310. network
    an open fabric of string or rope or wire woven together at regular intervals
    We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.
  311. lofty
    of imposing height; especially standing out above others
    On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward.
  312. confined
    being in captivity
    My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
    While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely."
  313. stake
    a strong wooden or metal post with a point at one end so it can be driven into the ground
    It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake.
  314. dramatic
    pertaining to or characteristic of drama
    In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified.
  315. garment
    an article of clothing
    We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.
  316. challenge
    a call to engage in a contest or fight
    I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour.
  317. exist
    have an existence, be extant
    In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action.
  318. associate
    bring or come into association or action
    One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely.
  319. several
    (used with count nouns) of an indefinite number more than 2 or 3 but not many
    Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary.
  320. assure
    inform positively and with certainty and confidence
    I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?
  321. damage
    the occurrence of a change for the worse
    All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.
  322. normal
    being approximately average or within certain limits in e.g. intelligence and development
    Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action.
  323. haunt
    follow stealthily or recur constantly and spontaneously to
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why s...
  324. creation
    the act of starting something for the first time; introducing something new
    My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking.
  325. prepare
    make ready or suitable or equip in advance for a particular purpose or for some use, event, etc
    We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community.
  326. commissioner
    a member of a commission
    When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene "Bull" Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues.
  327. enable
    render capable or able for some task
    They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer.
  328. principle
    a basic generalization that is accepted as true and that can be used as a basis for reasoning or conduct
    If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws.
  329. handle
    the appendage to an object that is designed to be held in order to use or move it
    It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators.
  330. devotion
    commitment to some purpose
    Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion?
  331. spring
    move forward by leaps and bounds
    It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement.
  332. influence
    a power to affect persons or events especially power based on prestige etc
    I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in."
  333. manifest
    clearly revealed to the mind or the senses or judgment
    The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro.
  334. philosopher
    a specialist in philosophy
    Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things.
  335. application
    the action of putting something into operation
    Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application.
  336. sustain
    lengthen or extend in duration or space
    I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.
  337. poverty
    the state of having little or no money and few or no material possessions
    But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughte...
  338. federal
    characterized by or constituting a form of government in which power is divided between one central and several regional authorities
    We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence.
  339. contest
    a struggle between rivals
    By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests.
  340. record
    anything (such as a document or a phonograph record or a photograph) providing permanent evidence of or information about past events
    Its ugly record of brutality is widely known.