From Birmingham’s Jail to Beyond the Riverside Church: Martin Luther King’s Global Authority

36 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2015 Last revised: 7 Feb 2015

See all articles by Henry J. Richardson

Henry J. Richardson

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Date Written: January 20, 2014


From critical jurisprudential examinations of his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, from his Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Address and his Nobel Lecture, and from his path-breaking speech at the Riverside Church, all in wider context, this article discusses how Martin Luther King's public ministry, post-Montgomery, should be reinterpreted as a global ministry with global authority. It was a ministry based on his early incorporation of Pan-Africanist perspectives, and his conscious merging, including on the most prominent global stage, the American Civil Rights Narrative, the International Human Rights Narrative, and the International Peace Narrative. Prominent in King's evolution of his global ministry, and the evolution of its community authority, is King's commitment to the need to critically and normatively address questions of law and justice, and the relationship of international human rights law to America's foreign policy obligations. His reflections on justice in this regard were, among many other pathways of their influence, compelling in helping to shape judicial opinions of several American cases. This is, finally, a meditation through Dr. King's global ministry on race and the intersection of international and domestic legal narratives.

Keywords: International Law, International Human Rights Law, Jurisprudence, International Peace Movement, Martin Luther King Studies, King National Holiday, Unjust Law, Civil Rights Movement, Pan-African Studies,Vietnam Anti-War Movement, Critical Race Theory, Ghandi Studies

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Richardson, Henry J., From Birmingham’s Jail to Beyond the Riverside Church: Martin Luther King’s Global Authority (January 20, 2014). Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-08, Available at SSRN: or

Henry J. Richardson (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

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