Annotate: A LETTER TO BIRMINGHAM JAIL

Your assignment for this week is to annotate Letter from Birmingham Jail.

What does it mean to annotate?

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Well, annotation literally means, taking notes. It is an important practice for close reading, summarizing and paraphrasing, and critical thinking and analyzing.

Taking good notes is vital for reading comprehension. What I particularly love about this assignment is that King is an icon many or us take for granted. We learn about him in grade school and think we know him because we know about the “I Have a Dream Speech” and his tragic assassination not long after. But there is a lot to King’s story that we don’t know. And many of us have never read his work closely.

There couldn’t be a more appropriate time for this assignment than now. The BLM movement carries the same argument that King had made decades ago. As you read this letter, pay close attention to the parallels of our time, pay close attention to the differences and similarities from now and then, and pay close attention to the audience. Who is this letter for? Who needs to hear this argument?

Who today needs to hear this argument? Consider that.

King won his argument. That is why he is an icon. But as you will see in this letter written four months before his famous I Have a Dream speech, he didn’t win easily.

Here’s the letter. It’s long, I know. But the length and the detail are reflective of the length and detail of the civil rights movement. At the time of this letter, King had endured years of activism. This letter could almost be seen as a summary of that experience.

Download it, read it, read it again, take notes, engage with the text. Then upload your annotated copy to this assignment. You can annotate how you choose as long as I can see your notes.You can highlight important passages and write notes in the side margins by inserting comments. You will get full credit for this assignment by demonstrating that you have read the text and engaged with the ideas present in the text. Random highlights do not count. I need to see why you highlighted a particular passage with the notes on the side margins.

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