In the year 1963, Birmingham Alabama was one of the most segregated cities in America. Martin Luther King, along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, staged a non-violent protest in Birmingham with a goal to overturn the segregation in the stores and protest the fact that African Americans weren’t permitted to hold certain jobs. In the process, Martin Luther King went to jail.
While in Jail he received a letter from 12 white pastors, who encouraged him to wait. Martin Luther King responds in what has become known as a letter from a Birmingham jail. In the letter he said,
Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the sting of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”;, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you go forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.
Then, after many more pages, he signed the letter
Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,
Martin Luther King, Jr.
You can listen to the rest of the message here.