New SAT Reading Practice Test 55: "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

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"Letter from Birmingham Jail"

This passage is adapted from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

…I think I should give the reason for my being
in Birmingham, since you have been influenced
by the argument of "outsiders coming in." I have
the honor of serving as president of the Southern
05Christian Leadership Conference, an organization
operating in every Southern state with headquar-
ters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five
affiliate organizations all across the South, one be-
ing the Alabama Christian Movement for Human
10Rights. Whenever necessary and possible we share
staff, educational, and financial resources with our
affiliates. Several months ago our local affiliate
here in Birmingham invited us to be on call to en-
gage in a nonviolent direct action program if such
15were deemed necessary. We readily consented and
when the hour came we lived up to our promises.
So I am here, along with several members of my
staff, because we were invited here. I am here be-
cause I have basic organizational ties here. Beyond
20this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness
of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in
Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens
25in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to
justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable
network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of
destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all
indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the
30narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone
who lives inside the United States can never be
considered an outsider anywhere in this country….
You may well ask, "Why direct action? Why sit-ins,
marches, etc.? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You
35are exactly right in your call for negotiation.
Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action.
Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a
crisis and establish such creative tension that
a community that has constantly refused to
40negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks
so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be
ignored. I just referred to the creation of tension as
a part of the work of the nonviolent resister. This
may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that
45I am not afraid of the word tension. I have earnestly
worked and preached against violent tension, but
there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension
that is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt
that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind
50so that individuals could rise from the bondage of
myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of
creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must
see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create
the kind of tension in society that will help men
55rise from the dark depths of prejudice and rac-
ism to the majestic heights of understanding and
brotherhood. So the purpose of the direct action
is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will
inevitably open the door to negotiation. We, there-
60fore, concur with you in your call for negotiation.
Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged
down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue
rather than dialogue….
My friends, I must say to you that we have
65not made a single gain in civil rights without
determined legal and nonviolent pressure. History
is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged
groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.
Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily
70give up their unjust posture; but as Reinhold
Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more
immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that
freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor;
75it must be demanded by the oppressed….
For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It
rings in the ear of every African American with
a piercing familiarity. This "wait" has almost
always meant "never." It has been a tranquilizing
80thalidomide, relieving the emotional stress for a
moment, only to give birth to an ill-formed infant
of frustration. We must come to see with the
distinguished jurist of yesterday that "justice too
long delayed is justice denied." We have waited for
85more than three hundred and forty years for our
constitutional and God-given rights. The nations
of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed
toward the goal of political independence, and
we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward the
90gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter….

1. Which choice correctly states King's purpose for writing this letter?

  • A. To explain why he came to Birmingham
  • B. To launch a nonviolent protest movement in Birmingham
  • C. To open an affiliate of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Birmingham
  • D. To support fellow civil rights activists in Birmingham

2. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 1-2 ("I think … in Birmingham")
  • B. Lines 3-7 ("I have … Atlanta, Georgia")
  • C. Lines 7-10 ("We have some … Rights")
  • D. Lines 25-26 ("Injustice anywhere … everywhere")

3. The passage most strongly suggests that which of the following statements is true?

  • A. King was warmly welcomed when he arrived in Birmingham.
  • B. King received criticism for his decision to come to Birmingham.
  • C. King did not want to cause a disruption by coming to Birmingham.
  • D. King was abandoned by his supporters when he arrived in Birmingham.

4. As used in lines 22-23, "interrelatedness of all communities and states" most nearly means that

  • A. King has personal connections to people in the town.
  • B. the Southern Christian Leadership Conference needs national support.
  • C. events in one part of the country affect everyone in the nation.
  • D. local civil rights groups operate independently of one another.

5. Based on paragraph 3, it can be reasonably inferred that King believed circumstances in Birmingham at the time

  • A. were unfair and wrong.
  • B. constituted an isolated event.
  • C. justified his arrest.
  • D. required federal intervention.

6. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 22-23 ("Moreover, … states")
  • B. Lines 25-26 ("Injustice anywhere … everywhere")
  • C. Lines 26-28 ("We are caught … destiny")
  • D. Lines 29-30 ("Never again … idea")

7. As used in line 41, "dramatize" most nearly means

  • A. cast events in an appealing light.
  • B. draw attention to significant events.
  • C. exaggerate events to seem more important.
  • D. turn events into a popular performance.

8. Which choice most clearly paraphrases a claim made by King in paragraph 4?

  • A. A failure to negotiate in the South has provoked direct action by civil rights activists.
  • B. A focus on dialogue blinds reformers to the necessity for direct action to promote change.
  • C. Direct action is necessary to motivate people to talk about prejudice and racism.
  • D. Nonviolent protest encourages a sense of brotherhood and understanding among citizens.

9. Paragraph 5 best supports the claims made in the preceding paragraph by

  • A. arguing that nonviolent pressure is most likely to spur just action by individuals.
  • B. clarifying that throughout history, privileged classes have been reluctant to let go of privilege.
  • C. drawing a distinction between the morality of individuals and of groups.
  • D. pointing out that few gains in civil rights have been made without nonviolent pressure.

10. King refers to "the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter" (lines 89-90) primarily to

  • A. call attention to the sedative effect of delaying civil rights reform in the United States.
  • B. emphasize that white Americans will not willingly end oppression against black Americans.
  • C. describe the progress made toward the winning of equal rights in other countries.
  • D. underscore the contrast between progress made in other countries and the United States.