Dr. King in Birmingham Jail

Birmingham, Alabama—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested and placed in solitary confinement in the Birmingham City Jail on Good Friday, April 12, 1963. During the time of his incarceration—which lasted through April 20—King wrote his legendary epistle Letter From Birmingham Jail.  While area clergymen encouraged black leaders like King, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and the other demonstration organizers to put off the massive protests, from his jail cell King penned a letter which encouraged the remaining movement leaders to continue to press forward with the their plans.

King’s letter included many memorable phrases including these words, “. . . when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of nobodiness—then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”

On April 16, 2013, the 50th anniversary of the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began writing his Letter from Birmingham Jail, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) will sponsor a program titled Letter from Birmingham Jail: A Worldwide Celebration.

At the Central Library, library supporters, staff and other participants will read excerpts from the letter beginning at 12:00 noon in the Atrium of the East Building. Additionally, the library’s staff has shared invitations for other groups around the globe including libraries, museums, schools, universities, churches, synagogues, temples, places where people work, public parks, bookstores, street corners, coffee shops and anywhere that people want to participate, to organize planned readings of the letter—to date, 224 locations have responded.

Alabama Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell joined Americans across this nation and the world in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by reading an excerpt of the Letter on the floor of the House of Representatives.

“Today we pay special tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in acknowledging the 50th Anniversary of the ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’,” said Rep. Sewell. “It was my humble honor to join with the Birmingham Public Library and so many voices around the world in reading an excerpt from Dr. King’s Letter on the floor of the House of Representatives.

The Letter is a powerful reminder of how far this nation has come to live up to its ideas of equality and justice all. We must continue to fight injustice and discrimination anywhere and everywhere it exists and work to ensure equality for all Americans.”

People who participate in the readings can read the full text of the Letter or selections from the Letter, individually, as a group, or however they want to do this. Groups participating may range from two people to hundreds of people. Readings can be done at any time of the day on April 16.  For more information, visit http://www.bplonline.org/letterfrombirminghamjail.

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