Dr. King uses an allusion when he refers to the Reverend Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian and professor as well as a leading intellectual during the mid-20th century. Niebuhr wrote several influential books, one in particular that addressed the morality of the individual versus the immorality of society. He is also credited with writing the Serenity Prayer. Dr. King writes,
History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.
This reference to such an eminent person—one who has actually been called the greatest Protestant theologian in the last two centuries—strengthens Dr. King's argument and credibility with his intended audience, a group of white, Southern religious leaders. Not only is he familiar with Niebuhr's work, but he is also influenced by...
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