Martin Luther King called for people to get "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."That comment as well as others are in these excerpts from King's letter to his fellow clergymen from a jail cell in Birmingham, 1963, after he lead non-violent protests in the streets in violation of city ordinances:
"In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action.
"We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States.
"Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case.
"On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.
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. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.
I am not afraid of the word "tension."
"The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
"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."
By Martin Luther King, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.