Week #6 The Meaning of Freedom
The Meaning of Freedom
The definition of freedom is, “the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint” (Freedom, 2019). My goal in writing this paper is to compare and contrast the ideas and viewpoints of documentation Letter from Birmingham Jail written by Martin Luther King and Civil Disobedience written by Henry David Thoreau. The word freedom can mean so many different things to everyone, some people might think of freedom as a way to be able to do as they want outright because they are allowed to do that without violating any laws.
Some individuals may think of freedom as a state of being able to work hard and achieve a goal of theirs. As a student, I may think of freedom as having a day I don’t have to work on an assignment or take a test. But to me, freedom is my birthright, it is something I was born with and not that many people in the world can honestly say that I know the price of freedom and it holds a special place in my heart to be able to know that.
I know I am fortunate enough to be able to lay my head down at night because someone else was brave enough to lay their life for mine.
Thoreau and King articles both argue in a similar way they talk about the rights they fought for even in a time with so much social injustice. Both authors had so much similar opinions and expressions. Thoreau’s purpose in Civil Disobedience was about the slavery that was going on in the world. Thoreau’s position in the article was to stand up against slavery and to also convince others to not be afraid and to do the same to go against what the law had said. Thoreau wrote in the article about how he thought it was unjust for how the government treated its people “I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right” McElroy, 2005, p. 1).
Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience is similar to King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail in many ways. One of the similarities is King was put in jail as well in his time for protesting for the injustice that was happening. Kings letter was written by him while he was arrested and jailed for a nonviolent sit-in and protecting his rights in Birmingham. King wrote the letter as a response to the clergymen for his actions. Even though King wrote this letter to them it was essentially written for all of America to take notice. King was well known for his advocating in civil rights so he was well aware by this time that this letter would be published around the world for everyone to see and read. This is just another similarity between both of the writers they used their writing as a form of expression to advocate around the world so they can reach citizens from all over the world to stand up for what they believe is right. Both King and Thoreau both had a major similarity in that they believed it is a right and responsibility to stand up and speak out against laws that are unjust and cause harm. “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws” (King, 1963, p. 3).
Although there are a couple of similarities between King and Thoreau, they also had differences in their overall messages. Reading through these letters one of the differences that stood out to me is one of their viewpoints involving the government. Thoreau talked in the article about how there should be little to no government involvement needed he didn’t think it was part of human nature to have one Thoreau stated: “That government is best which governs not at all” (McElroy, 2005, p. 2). On the other hand, King believed in having a government, but one that was fair to all men, regardless of race or skin color he spoke or equality King stated: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” (King, 1963, p. 4) King believed this was meant for all men not just white people. Both men wrote letters that inspired the world they both influenced different viewpoints for there to bring change in the world and to fight for justice.
In conclusion, thanks to Thoreau and King, who wrote these letters for similar purposes, they had the opportunity to educate and inform people of what was going on and what they believed to be true. It was necessary for these two men to bring forward these issues and demand to be heard I think they did a wonderful job. I think standing up for an unjust law to draw attention is a moral responsibility in the world when you don’t feel that something is right, you have to speak up and do what you can to be heard. Both King and Thoreau were influential men in their time and if it were not for their bravery and courage to speak out the world may have been very different.
Freedom. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2019, from M. L., Jr. (1963, August). Letter from Birmingham Jail. Retrieved from
McElroy, W. (2005, March 1). Henry David Thoreau and “civil disobedience,” Part 1. Retrieved
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