Criminals can’t break the law and not expect to be punished for it. Ralph and his friend were indeed arrested for breaking the law. As with many prisoners, Ralph and his fellow arrestee felt they’d been arrested unjustly, but, no, the law was clear. The men clearly were guilty even without a trial. Shame, too. Both men had grown up in church and knew better than to break the law.
In fact, the authorities felt Ralph’s crime to be so heinous that both he and his buddy were put in separate jail cells, and the first twenty-four hours were spent in solitary confinement. Neither man was allowed any communication. They had no visitors, not even their lawyers. Those days were the longest, most frustrating and bewildering hours either man ever lived.
Ralph’s pal later said, “You will never know the meaning of utter darkness until you have lain in such a dungeon, knowing that sunlight is streaming overhead and seeing only darkness below.”
What terrible crime could these two men have committed that would warrant such conditions even before the trial? To the authorities, these two men’s actions attacked the very core of what it meant to be an American. It was believed that Ralph and his buddy stood for everything that America was against. So evil was the public perception of the two men and their crime that letters to the editor of the local paper often compared them (especially Ralph’s friend) to Lucifer. Many accused them of being in bed with the enemies of the United States. Even mainstream, respected clergymen, not only in the town where they were were arrested but also across the United States, publicity said that their unlawful act was shameful. They ought to have known better.
Finally, after a few days, bowing to pressure from bleeding heart liberal lawyers, the authorities allowed attorneys for the two men in the jail to see them. That’s when Ralph’s buddy wrote a letter in their defense and gave it to one of the attorneys. The attorney turned it over to the media, and the letter was soon published across the United States and beyond.
You see, the reason many people used the name Lucifer to describe the men who committed this crime was because Ralph’s buddy’s middle name was actually Luther. Ralph you know as Reverend Ralph Abernathy. And now you know that Ralph’s buddy was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and his famous letter is Letter from Birmingham Jail.