Eastern State Penitentiary hosts readings of MLK's 'Letter from Birmingham Jail'

Rachel Kurland
January 11, 2019 - 2:23 pm
Martin Luther King, Jr.

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Jan. 21, Eastern State Penitentiary is hosting a weekend of activities honoring the late civil rights leader.

The museum will hold readings and discussions of King's 1963 "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

King was arrested in Birmingham on April 12, 1963 for demonstrating without a permit. He wrote the letter during his 11 days behind bars as a response to an article published by Alabama clergymen, who criticized King for using jail time to demonstrate civil injustice.

The letter was written in the margins of a newspaper, using a smuggled-in pencil, as writing instruments were not allowed in the jail.

King wrote, "I submit that an individual who breaks the law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for the law."

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Actors, children and community leaders will read excerpts from the letter three times a day during the weekend of Jan. 19 to 21. Readings take place at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. on each of those days.

A Q&A and open discussion, led by a civil rights scholar, will follow each reading.

In addition to the readings, children can participate in free art activities at Eastern State on MLK Day Jan. 21. Children and their families will create art in response to the themes in King's letter, as well as read stories about King's life and legacy.

In line with the day's message of community service, visitors are also encouraged to bring old electronics to recycle with PAR-Recycle Works from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 21.

The readings are free and open to the public. Seating is first come, first served.