Special event to commemorate anniversary of MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

Martin Luther King Jr. Birmingham arrest photo

For eight days in April 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. sat in a jail cell in Birmingham, Ala. While incarcerated for his participation in nonviolent demonstrations against segregation, King penned one of the most famous documents in the history of the U.S. civil rights movement.

“Letter from Birmingham Jail” was hand-written April 16, 1963, as a response to a public statement issued by eight white religious leaders who believed racial segregation should be decided in the judicial system. In the text, King emphasized the moral responsibility to break unjust laws and to take direct nonviolent action rather than wait for justice to come through the courts. King’s 6,000-word letter, published nationwide by newspapers and magazines in the following months, is now considered a classic document of civil disobedience.

In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Hanover College will host a special address by Kentucky-based community leader, activist and national speaker Shameka Parrish-Wright.

Parrish-Wright will present “People Power: King’s Legacy of Activism.” Thursday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m. in Fitzgibbon Recital Hall, Lynn Center for Fine Arts. The address, which launches the series “Campus Conversations about Social Justice Activism,” is open to the public, free of charge. This event is also part of Office of Alumni Relations’ Social Justice Series.

Shameka Parrish-Wright


Parrish-Wright, who recently ran for mayor of Louisville, Ky., is a veteran community organizer, project and campaign manager and social-justice activist. She currently works as director of Voices of Community Activists and Leaders (Kentucky), a statewide grassroots membership organization that builds power among low-income people directly impacted by HIV/AIDS, drug war, mass incarceration and homelessness.

She previously served as operations manager for “The Bail Project,” a non-profit organization designed to disrupt mass incarceration while providing community outreach, training, needs-based assessments and connections to wrap-around services.

Formerly incarcerated and homeless, Parrish-Wright eventually earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville and continues to use education as a tool of empowerment. She previously served as the City of Louisville’s human relations commissioner and worked at the University of Louisville as a community outreach and voter-engagement coordinator. She has also held leadership positions with many organizations, including Kentucky Jobs with Justice, LaCasita Center, Coalition for the Homeless, Carl Braden Memorial Center, Louisville Books to Prisoners, Justice Now and Sowers of Justice.

Through her efforts with ​Kentuckians and community organizations, Parrish-Wright has gained recognition as a bridge-builder for increasing participation with families and youth of color from various backgrounds. She continues to serve as a national motivational speaker discussing progressive policy reforms.

“Campus Conversations about Social Justice Activism” is sponsored by the Haq Center for Cross-Cultural Education, Racial Justice and Equity Committee and the Equity, Inclusion and Multi-Cultural Education Committee.

Upcoming events in the Hanover College Social Justice Series.