"Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion, before it can be cured." .
In 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., wrote these powerful words from his jail cell, in response to a criticism from white clergymen in Alabama. A firm believer in nonviolence and civil disobedience, King drew on the teachings of philosophers and writers before him, such as Henry David Thoreau. Like King, Thoreau believed that the most effective way to go about attaining one's moral goals was to engage in "Civil Disobedience," which, appropriately, is the name of Thoreau's essay regarding this issue written in 1849. .
The idea of "just" and "unjust" laws became a central theme throughout both King and Thoreau's beliefs. Thoreau recognized the presence of "unjust" laws as did King when he defined what he saw as an "unjust" as well as what he felt a "just" law was. The most important point that both men made regarding law was that "just" laws should definitely be obeyed, where "unjust" laws must be disobeyed. They felt it was every person's moral obligation, whether they were the minority or not, to stand up to the "unjust" law and take action themselves. .
Justice, over human history, has had an infinite number of definitions. Both King and Thoreau had very similar views on what justice is. They break justice into two categories, "unjust" and "just" laws. Justice, they feel, is based on morality. A "just" law is in accordance with "moral law or the law of God." ; conversely unjust laws are "out of harmony with moral law." King brings a very powerful parallel that brings more meaning to his belief of unjust laws when he reminds the reader that everything that Adolph Hitler did was "legal".