The Atlantic

Atlantic Readers Respond to Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail’

In the August 1963 issue, The Atlantic published King’s famous letter under the title “The Negro Is Your Brother.” Readers’ responses were largely positive.
Source: Bettmann / Getty

Letters From the Archives is a series in which we highlight past Atlantic stories and reactions from readers at the time.


On April 12, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy led a march of some 50 black protestors through Birmingham, Alabama. It was Good Friday. “We want to march for freedom on the day Jesus hung on the cross for freedom,” King said prior to the event. But their march was cut short. King and Abernathy, among many others, were arrested by city police for parading without a permit; the leaders were placed in solitary confinement.

This particular march was. The April 11, 1963, article noted that King—“the behind-the-scenes director of the current movement”—and other SCLC organizers, who were told specifically not to demonstrate, were planning to defy the injunction and march anyway. “This [is] a flagrant denial of our constitutional privileges,” King declared.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic3 min readScience
Ad Astra Is a Starry Epic With an Intimately Human Message
James Gray’s new film, starring Brad Pitt, is a quiet, character-driven drama disguised as a grand adventure through the cosmos.
The Atlantic4 min readScience
‘This Is Clearly Coming From Outside the Solar System’
The second known visitor to our cosmic neighborhood from another star is making quite an entrance.
The Atlantic3 min readPolitics
The Atlantic Politics Daily: Pet Issues
Political pets can be tied up in complicated ways with public perception of the politician. Plus: Meet the Bernie bros turned Liz lads.