What did some of the quotes mean in "Letter From Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King Jr.-Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. -There can be no deep disappointment where ther is...

What did some of the quotes mean in "Letter From Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King Jr.

-Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

-There can be no deep disappointment where ther is not deep love.

Break the meaning down.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you have a textbook or some type of resource to accompany this task, I would use that as a reference.  Additionally, as pointed out in the previous post, there is a need to align what the instructor says with your answer set.  Certainly, in the end, you will decide what is best for you, but since the instructor is present, I would ensure that what is said on their level is understood on yours.  I think that the essence of the two quotes feature help to bring to light one of the driving forces behind King's beliefs and success.  Dr. King sought to make the Civil Rights issue not something that was political or social, as much as a human rights issue.  He keenly understood that there was going to be a greater level of resistance or inertia from White society if the paradigm did not embrace the human rights notion.  In speaking from this point of view, Dr. King was able to convince many Americans who were skeptical of the Civil Rights Movement that the driving force behind it was a human rights issue, one of morality and basic ethical treatment of any human being.  It is because of this transformative paradigm that so many people were able to embrace King's vision.  The two quotes fit this idea.  The idea of justice being a universal concept that applies to all human beings is one such element.  King's use of this quote argues that if injustice is being committed in the South or in some isolated part of the country, then justice, as a transcendent concept, is being denied.  In speaking such an element, King was able to convince many Northerners who felt that Civil Rights violations was a "local" issue that action must be taken.  He was also able to paint those who perpetrated such actions as those who embrace injustice.  It was quite a powerfully rhetorical move in doing so.  Such a quotation makes the battle not between good and bad, but rather between justice and injustice, good and evil.  This helps to do much in galvanizing the struggle present.  In the second quote, King might be speaking to those who are fighting for Civil Rights, living out the struggle.  The inertia experienced by those who fought for Civil Rights was immense.  No doubt, King realized that the magnitude of this struggle and the toll it took on so many who actively sought it was equally mammoth.  In speaking about the idea of how "deep love" involves "deep disappointment," King was able to bring to light how the struggle is going to be an intense one.  Dr. King, himself jailed for his beliefs, was able to evoke the idea that the struggles experienced have to be seen in light of a larger goal.  The "disappointments" are part of a schematic of "love."  Here again, King's rhetorical brilliance configures subjective experience in a larger and more transcendent scope.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of course your instructor will want to know what you think, but let me give you a little background on the time and the letter, and then we'll talk about the quotes.

King was sitting in jail on this occasion because he had marched without a permit.  A pretty trumped up charge, no doubt, just to get him off the scene and to harass him.  He was used to this.  But he had also received letters from and seen published by some southern white preachers "A Call to Unity" urging King to slow down and to wait in his campaign for equal rights.  His "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" was an answer to their charges, and an incredibly eloquent one.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" can be interpreted any number of ways, and I urge you to come up with your own version, but I see this quote as true, in that if an injustice is legal and/or socially acceptable in one region of the country, then it becomes possible and legal for that injustice to spread to others, or the whole society.  You cannot have both justice and injustice, there is one or the other, all or nothing.

"There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love"  is addressed straight to those white preachers, and the southern churches in general, who King noted had stood by for generations and ignored or even supported injustices against blacks.  He loved the church, but was disappointed in parts of it, and in some people claiming to represent the church.

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