The year was 1963, and Dr. King was in Birmingham, Alabama to lead a civil disobedience campaign in one of the most segregated cities in the United States. As expected, Birmingham’s notorious police commissioner, Eugene “Bull” Connor, soon had Dr. King arrested and jailed. It was then, while incarcerated pretrial on $5,000 bail, that Dr. King wrote his seminal “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
Rowland Scherman – U.S. National Archive and Records Administration, Public Records
“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here,” he wrote. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Dr. King spent 11 days in jail before A.G. Gaston, a Black businessman, posted his bail.
This was not the first time Dr. King was jailed for leading nonviolent protests against racial and economic injustice, and it would not be the last. He was arrested 30 times over the course of his life, and often held on high bail amounts to prolong his incarceration and force him to take guilty pleas.
Half a century after Dr. King’s tragic death, his vision of racial equality and economic justice is still far from being realized. As we come together to mark his legacy, we’re reminded that what matters most is action in the face of injustice no matter the cost.
Thank you for joining us in the fight against mass incarceration and the criminalization of race and poverty. Together, we will continue challenging this two-tier system of justice – one bail at a time – until the day freedom is truly free.