Alabama Commemorates MLK's "Letter From a Birmingham Jail"

A ceremony was held to honor the 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. wrote one of the most important documents of the civil rights movement.

Posted: 04/17/2013 12:17 PM EDT

Fifty years ago on April 16, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote "Letter From a Birmingham Jail," and expressed that segregation imposed on African-Americans during the Jim Crow era was an injustice. It became the most important letter of the civil rights movement.

Alabama officials commemorated the document on Tuesday with a historical marker outside a former jail in Birmingham in honor of the letter's 50th anniversary. King's youngest daughter, Bernice King, joined Alabama's governor and more than 100 people for the ceremony.

"The City of Birmingham tried to run him out of town and now is honoring him as one of their heroes. How times have changed," she said. Bernice King is the chief executive officer of the King Center in Atlanta.

Reuters reports

Her father wrote the lengthy letter in the margins of a newspaper, on scraps of paper from a black jail trustee and, finally, on paper brought in by King's lawyers.

He chastised the slow path to justice preferred by white moderates, whom he called "the Negro's great stumbling block."

Governor Robert Bentley said he reread the letter on the eve of the anniversary.

"Over the course of 7,000 powerful words, King shared the painful struggles of those who suffered discrimination," Bentley said. "We are better and stronger today because of his actions."

People from 28 U.S. states and 10 countries notified the Birmingham Public Library that they planned to remember King's letter by reading it aloud on Tuesday, said Jim Baggett, the library's archivist.

"It has a tremendous meaning all around the world and inspired activities such as Tiananmen Square," Baggett said. "It speaks to people who are oppressed and seeking justice."

Read full story here.

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(Photo: John Goodwin/Getty Images)

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