SAT Subject US History Practice Question 667: Answer and Explanation
18. In the "Letter from Birmingham Jail," Martin Luther King Jr. discussed the "strangely irrational notion that there is something in the flow of time that inevitably cures all ills. We must come to see that human progress never rolls on the wheels of inevitability."
Which of the following represents the main idea of the above excerpt?
A. Nonviolence is the key to success for the civil rights movement.
B. The white moderates are obstacles to our victory.
C. We must act now.
D. Injustice must be eradicated everywhere.
E. Breaking unjust laws is justified.
Correct Answer: C
The quote refers to the relationship between time and action. King said the request that the movement wait "almost always means never." Time is neutral according to King. If people don't act, nothing good will happen. Martin Luther King wrote the "Letter from Birmingham Jail" in 1963 during the drive to desegregate the city. The quote is not a discussion of nonviolence, although King was an advocate of social change through nonviolent means (A). King did plead for action from white moderates (B), who were more concerned about calm than justice. He believed that all humanity was connected (D) and that it was morally right (E) to break the segregation laws because they were unjust. However, the ideas in (B), (D), and (E) do not refer to the central idea of the quote.