A Timeless Work That Changed History


RFI Executive Vice President Eric Patterson wrote a piece published in WORLD Magazine this week reflecting on the background and significance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” In the piece, Patterson discusses how King wrote it shortly after being held in solitary confinement, “when he despaired that he could see no light, [but] realized that he was not alone,” and a few days later was moved to write this timeless work. He writes:

King wrote about those hours in darkness in solitary confinement when he could not see or sense light:

“You will never know the meaning of utter darkness until you have lain in such a dungeon, knowing that sunlight is streaming overhead and still seeing only darkness below. You might have thought I was in the grip of fantasy brought on by worry. I did worry. But there was more to the blackness than a phenomenon conjured up by a worried mind, Whatever the cause, the fact remained that I could not see the light.”

A day later King was moved to a traditional cell after intervention from Washington, D.C. He was speechless upon learning that his family was fine, funds were being raised, and that national attention was focused on Birmingham. At that moment he recalled being “silenced” by a “profound sense of awe. I was aware of a feeling that had been present all along below the surface of consciousness, pressed down under the weight of concern for the movement: I had never been truly in solitary confinement: God’s companionship does not stop at the door of a jail cell. I don’t know whether the sun was shining at that moment. But I know that once again I could see the light.”

That was Easter weekend, 1963. A few days later, from his cell, King wrote his majestic letter, a timeless, sparkling diamond reflecting the nobility of the American dream for all, rooted in the fundamental laws of the Judeo-Christian tradition. King’s arguments ring just as powerfully today as they did six decades ago. Timeless truths hold timeless power.

Read the full article: “A Timeless Work That Changed History.