The links posted here will provide you with the necessary historical background for the references in this post. They should be regarded as a recommended reading, not required.
King was in jail as a result of his Civil Disobedience as part of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama. His protest against segregation in Birmingham, Alabama led to the effective shut-down of the city.
King and his followers were responding to a long-standing pattern of racial segregation and apartheid in downtown Birmingham, stemming from a state and regional practice of segregation in public facilities. These practices were not uniformly observed in rural and/or remote areas, which might lead to actions of great kindness between the races, or in turn, might result in actions of extraordinary violence and terrorism, including race riots and lynchings.
The Birmingham police department was then run by the notorious racist Sheriff Eugene "Bull" Connor, who responded by throwing them all in jail, including King himself. By this time, King was already internationally famous. He would also soon come out against the Vietnam War, as well, which would help to compromise his base of mainstream white support.
While in jail in Birmingham, King chose to respond to a series of complaints against him made by his fellow Christian Ministers by writing the famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." This document is not as well known as some of his speeches and therefore it seems ideal to include in our course.
We will talk about this text in relation to our final segment on the 60s when we will also be reading excerpts from Amiri Baraka's Blues People and the chapter, "Defining the Blues" from Steven Tracy's book Langston Hughes and the Blues. Subsequent additions to the syllabus, including this one, will be signaled by a series of astericks within the text of the syllabus as posted on the blog.