“Transforming Jail: MLK in Birmingham”

Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed dozens of times for his efforts to defend the dignity of every human being. While imprisonment can break the spirit of many people, somehow it strengthened King’s resolve and enhanced his personal dignity. In 1963 it produced one of the most important civil rights documents in history: King’s letter from the Birmingham jail. Like many others thrown into jail for standing up for their values – Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Sanger, Gandhi, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela – King managed to overcome forces of oppression. What can we glean from the power of some to transcend jail and bring out the best? How can we apply these lessons to our own ethical action efforts, including reforming a prison system that destroys hopes and maximizes recidivism? Can we help society transform imprisonment?

Hugh Taft-Morales joined the Baltimore Ethical Society as its professional leader in 2010, the same year he was certified by the American Ethical Union as an Ethical Culture Leader. He also serves as Leader of the Ethical Humanist Society of Philadelphia. His presence in Ethical Culture has been termed “invigorating.” Taft-Morales lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, with his wife Maureen, a Latin American Analyst with the Congressional Research Service, with whom he has three beloved children, Sean, Maya, and Justin.

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