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The University of Alabama

UA Hosts ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail’ Performance

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — In April 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sat in a jail cell in Birmingham writing a letter that was to become one of the most famous documents of the Civil Rights movement.

Fifty years later, opera theatre students from The University of Alabama’s College of Arts and Sciences, in partnership with Red Mountain Theatre Company of Birmingham, will bring this historic exchange to life.

“Letter from Birmingham Jail,” will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Morgan Auditorium Monday, Oct. 14. Admission is free, but tickets are required. Ticket reservations can be made online at the UA School of Music ticket website at

In writing the letter, King was responding to eight white clergymen who criticized his presence in Birmingham and accused him of bringing unnecessary chaos to the city. In response, King famously stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

In this dramatic interpretation of the events, students will play the eight clergymen and several other roles.

The Red Mountain Theatre Company of Birmingham is marking the 50th anniversary of many of the Civil Rights Movement’s most poignant moments with 50 performances of “Letter from Birmingham Jail” across Alabama. At each location, company actor Cecil Washington will play King, and the community provides actors to play the eight clergymen. Following each performance, actors conduct a question-and-answer session with the audience.

UA opera theatre students portraying the eight clergymen are senior Bryant Bush, of Mobile, who is pursuing a degree in vocal performance; junior Gavin Dover, of Birmingham, who is pursuing a degree in music education; Ryan Landis, of Rapid City, S.D., who is pursuing a doctoral degree in vocal performance; sophomore Crawford Lindsay, of Atlanta, Ga., pursuing a degree in music administration; freshman Andrew Livingston, of Tuscaloosa, pursuing  a degree in vocal performance, Clay A. McCollum, of West Point, Miss., pursuing a master’s degree in musicology; junior Andrew Nalley, of Huntsville, pursuing a degree in vocal performance and Russell Stephens, of Huntsville, pursuing a master’s degree in musicology.

The event, sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, is part of “Through the Doors,” a year-long series of activities and events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of The University of Alabama and honoring the courage and dedication of the two African American students who enrolled in the University on June 11, 1963, as well as the University’s ongoing commitment to progress. For more information, visit

UA’s College of Arts and Sciences is the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Kelli Wright, communications specialist, College of Arts and Sciences, 205/348-8539,