The emotion conveyed in Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail seeps from his exquisite language, so rich in its power to move one’s heart and challenge the crushing grip of injustice. King’s impassioned lines transport one back into the culture and atmosphere of the segregated South, and into the position of those suffering from injustice. Even in the midst of such hatred, King manages to adopt a tone of community and brotherhood, writing, “We are caught in the inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects the other indirectly…Anyone who lives within the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds”(King). On several occasions throughout the text King’s writing addresses, although not explicitly, the issue of one’s homeland. In describing the plight of his fellow Negro, he writes that the Black man is “forever fighting a degenerating sense of nobodiness”(King). This “nobodiness” is the black man’s lack of home and the lack of acceptance and justice in what is rightfully his homeland. Later in the letter, he writes this emotion as one “drained…of a sense of somebodiness” (King). He intimately connects home with a sense of being—a recognition of one’s self and life in a community. One’s ability to “be” is stifled by the choking clutches of racism, segregation, lack of personal freedoms and overall injustice. King’s Letter offers us a situation which demands immediate action and elicits the desire to fight for justice. Through the beauty and passion of his words we come to recognize similar instances of injustice in our world today and are forced to question our dedication to fighting such injustices. His words speak to us even now, and strike us with their truth and haunting relevance to our own time.
Enter Peter Hans-Kolvenbach’s study The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education. The mission of Jesuit ideals is to answer the call that King poses in his letter. The vital role of “men and women for others” demands what Kolvenbach describes as “well educated solidarity," a common fellowship which allows us to see through the eyes of our brother and act with the spiritual knowledge and strength that form the foundations of the Jesuit mission. These two texts seem to communicate with each other, providing us with a reminder of the injustice at hand and a plan of action to combat its spread and, through awareness, contact and solidarity, increase the army of those willing to fight.