"Martin Luther King, Jr. on Fear and Fearlessness"
Drawing on my book, The Emotions of Nonviolence, I argue that King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is not merely a justification of civil disobedience but is also and perhaps even primarily an essay on political motivation. It aims to address a central problem in democratic theory: namely, how can and ought we motivate the (racially) oppressed to engage in civil disobedience or, as King called it, nonviolent direct action. King’s answer is that we must appeal to the political emotions, both positive and negative. In this chapter, I discuss how rational and legitimate fear can stand in the way of political action and how King hoped to overcome this kind of fear through fearlessness.