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Clinton Library Celebrates 50 Years Since Dr. King’s ‘Birmingham Jail’ Letter

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Birmingham Police Department

To honor the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” over 200 6th graders from Horace Mann Magnet Middle School in Little Rock participated in special programs at the Clinton Presidential Library. 

King’s letter challenged white church leaders in Birmingham and people across the nation to confront and end racism. Kathleen Pate, the library’s education specialist, says students learned more about the history surrounding the letter and analyzed the meaning behind King’s words. 

“Many young people can’t even conceive of the things Dr. King was fighting against…they cannot conceive of what segregation meant and the injustice that prevailed,” Pate said. “We want to take the students back to that time in American history and have them reflect on the words of Dr. King. We had a mantra today and it’s a quote from the letter ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ We want the children to consider what that really means not just in 1963, but what it means today.” 

The events at the Clinton Library were part of a worldwide celebration organized by the Birmingham Public Library that encouraged live readings of King’s letter.

So far, communities throughout the United States, China, Thailand, Somalia, South Africa, Israel, and Germany have hosted similar events.