A Letter from Jail, for Us


A colorful mural stretched across a large exterior wall, full of pictures of Black children doing activities: reading, soccer, karate, lacrosse
Southington's "MLK39: Racial Equity" Mural

In the church, we love to talk about Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a civil rights activist, of course, but he was a minister, too. Active in the movement for civil rights from 1955 until his assassination in 1968, Dr. King is known for many things. Many of us can probably bring one of his famous quotes to mind.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Especially for that last one, I can hear his voice ringing out that refrain: “I have a dream, I have a dream...”


But Dr. King wasn’t just a person who said a lot of beautiful words about unity. He spent his life afflicting the comfortable, demanding justice, and organizing people to take direct action.


In 1963, eight white clergymen in Birmingham, Alabama wrote an open letter called “A Call for Unity.” The signatories included two Episcopal bishops. The men critiqued the civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, urging the people to negotiate and use the courts, not protest.


In response, from his cell in a Birmingham city jail, Dr. King wrote “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (download and read it by clicking here).


It’s a little long, but I encourage you to read the whole thing. Pray with this letter this week. While you do, I encourage you to consider these questions:

  • What parts of the letter make sense to you, and where does it make you feel uncomfortable?

  • How (if at all) are these words applicable to today’s world?

  • Where are you in this letter?

And, for fun, here is a video documenting the process of making our own mural in town that's inspired by Dr. King's legacy: Southington's "MLK39: Racial Equity" mural.