Letters From Birmingham Jail And Keynote Address At The First Woman's Rights Convention

1137 words - 5 pages

"Letters from Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King and "Keynote Address at the First Woman's Rights Convention" by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony It was Thomas Jefferson who uttered the words "That all men are created equal...." However, over one hundred years would pass before these words would mean anything. Equality among all Americans would come with the adoption of the fifteenth, nineteenth, and twenty-fourth Amendments. Before these amendments were passed not everyone had equal rights. African-Americans and white women had almost no rights at all. Their road to equality is large due to three very important individuals. For African-Americans, it was Martin Luther King. For women, it was Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Even though they were separated by almost one hundred years and were fighting for a different group of people, their ideas were one and the same, equal rights. To reach out to as many people as possible, these civil rights activists often gave speeches, held conventions, etc. "Letters from Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King and "Keynote Address at the First Woman's Rights Convention" by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are two of the most popular works by these individuals. The two writings are similar in their use of unjust laws and religion to justify their beliefs.

When addressing their purpose Elizabeth Cady Stanton says they are their to rally against the unjust laws in the statue books. She says these laws are part of a "government existing without the consent of the governed." (720) which is why they are unjust. They have no power or say in the government yet must support it. Claiming that the laws are unjust, instead of simply demanding equal rights warranted Stanton and Anthony's movement toward equal rights.

Martin Luther King used the same idea of unjust laws to justify his actions and nonviolent campaigns. He used this idea to answer the question of how he can support the breaking of some laws, but not others? His simple answer was that there are two types of laws, just and unjust, and "an unjust law is no law at all." (80). He goes on to quote St. Thomas Aquinas, ."..Any law that uplifts personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust." (80) and says that any individual that breaks an unjust law and accepts the punishment of imprisonment actually has the "highest respect for the law." (81). King makes a very strong point in distinguishing just and unjust laws to advocate his actions, just like Stanton and Anthony do in their address.

Martin Luther King also used religion and the bible to ascertain his reasoning. First, King uses religion to dispute the claim that his non-violent actions should be condemned because they promote violence. He does this by making a direct relation to Jesus. "Isn't this like...

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