Stanford University The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute
Letter from Birmingham Jail
  Essential and Sub Questions  

The essential question and sub questions are designed to guide the teacher and students through each segment of the lesson. These questions may be used as assessment at the end of the unit or as discussion prompts along the way.

Essential Question:
Did the nonviolent direct action, which King describes in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” successfully transform Birmingham, Alabama from a segregated to a just society in 1963?

Sub Questions:

  • How do we, as a society, define an unjust law, and what kinds of strategies and tactics have proven most effective in changing such laws? If we are able to abolish legal injustice will it necessarily result in social justice?
  • What was the social, political and economic situation in Birmingham, AL before the spring of 1963?
  • What were the goals of Project C and how were these goals to be accomplished?
  • In “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” how does King explain the purpose and effectiveness of nonviolent direct action?
  • As Project C began to unfold in Birmingham in the spring and summer of 1963, how were these events reported to the nation and world?
  • Was it the adults or the children of Birmingham that lead the strategy to fill the jails through civil disobedience?
  • Have the people of Birmingham reached a point of reconciliation after the experiences of injustice, violence and nonviolent direct action?
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