Martin Luther King Jr.
Civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. was imprisoned at the time he wrote "Letter from Birmingham Jail," which, alongside his "I Have a Dream" speech, is one of the most famous and influential pieces of civil rights rhetoric. In April 1963, King was working on behalf of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which was dedicated to eradicating legal segregation, when he was arrested in Birmingham for parading without a permit. His methods of nonviolent protest—sit-ins, marches, and economic boycotts—rankled area Church leaders and government officials. He was awarded the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, and his leadership contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. He continued to work tirelessly in the name of racial equality up until his death on April 4, 1968, when he was assassinated by segregationist James Earl Ray.