Self Paced

Readings that Matter: Letter from Birmingham Jail (Acumen)

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Welcome to the first reading in our new series on “Readings that Matter”. This series is adapted from a set of readings that Acumen’s Fellows and staff discuss on a regular basis as part of our leadership training and development.

“Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere…”

We have chosen to start with Martin Luther King’s most widely-read text “Letter from Birmingham Jail” because the themes are particularly relevant today. As we become more interconnected as a world, we see a growing sense of otherness and awareness of injustices. This is true in the United States and across the world. Through a systematic reading and discussion of Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” with a group of people you know, you will explore his arguments, dissect his masterful use of rhetoric, and we hope, come to a better understanding of where you stand on the various ideas he shares.


You’re a leader or aspiring leader looking to learn from a master of moral imagination with the humility to see the world as it is and the audacity to imagine what it could be.

You’re looking to learn powerful techniques to confront injustice and speak truth to power.

You enjoy discussing issues of justice, leadership, and the systems in which we live.


There are no in-person teachers or facilitators for this course. This 1-module course is probably more akin to a book club. Its power comes from the group’s experience of the reading and discussion. We strongly encourage you take this course with a group, but you can also take it individually.

- Get a group of people together. We recommend starting with 3-5 people you know – your friends, family, classmates, or colleagues.

- Have each person you invite sign up individually here to receive the reading and discussion guide.

- Your group session will work best if someone takes the lead as a facilitator. We’ve made this easy by providing a full facilitator’s guide (including email templates to invite your friends) which will be emailed to you upon registration.

- Set a date to meet in-person (recommended) or online.

To start, we suggest setting aside 1 hour to read the letter and then 2 hours for your group’s discussion. From past experience, if your group is larger it is more likely that you won’t get through the entire reading in that time. Because of this we have made the course materials available on demand so you don’t have to complete them in one sitting.