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Decoding International LawSemiotics and the Humanities$
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Susan Tiefenbrun

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195385779

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195385779.001.0001

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Semiotics and Martin Luther King’s letter from Birmingham jail

Semiotics and Martin Luther King’s letter from Birmingham jail

Decoding International Law

Susan Tiefenbrun

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores Martin Luther King's views on civil disobedience as expressed in the memorable Letter from Birmingham Jail. The message contained in the Letter is that racial difference is nothing more than similarity disguised. The Letter deconstructs the myth that racial equality exists in America by first confirming the existence of racial differences, then rejecting the notion of ‘difference made legal’, a concept King considered to be the basis of unjust laws. King accomplished this deconstruction by playing a highly sophisticated structural and stylistic game of semiotics.

Keywords:   Martin Luther King, The Letter, semiotic analysis, civil disobedience, racial difference

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