Martin Luther King Jr.

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Why does Martin Luther King Jr. welcome the label of an "extremist"?

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In his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the fact that "white moderates" were calling him an extremist for his use of nonviolent resistance tactics. King makes historical examples of other people who have been considered extremists—such as Jesus, and Martin Luther, Lincoln, and Jefferson—to explain why he eventually pivoted from his initial dissatisfaction at being called an extremist to embracing the term fully.

None of these men were extremists in a sense that King would actually have been ashamed to be compared to. He also argues that taking an extreme position on a matter is absolutely superior to complacency, and that if the label extremist will apply to anyone who is not complacent, then he will gladly take it, because even the complacent help to enable extreme forms of violence.

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