A Call For Unity
"A Call For Unity" is a letter publshed on Good Friday, April 12, 1963 by eight white clergymen in Birmingham and published in the Birmingham News under the headline, ""White Clergymen Urge Local Negroes to Withdraw from Demonstrations."
Along with three other clergymen, the authors of "A Call For Unity" had written "An Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense", an open letter to all people of goodwill, which called for opponents of segregation orders to obey the courts and avoid hatred and violence. That letter was published on January 16, a few days after newly-elected Governor George Wallace's inauguration, at which he famously promised to uphold segregation in Alabama, "forever".
"A Call For Unity" was addressed specifically to African American citizens on the day of a planned march by Martin Luther King, Jr, Ralph Abernathy, and Fred Shuttlesworth to the Birmingham City Hall in defiance of city leaders. The letter, while recognizing "the natural impatience of those who feel their hopes are slow in being realized" cautions "negro citizens" to follow the instruction of those leaders who counsel local negotiation rather than joining "outsiders" in unlawful demonstrations.
The authors appealed to the "days of new hope" which were resulting from ongoing negotiations and mounting displeasure with the city's elected leadership, saying that these are not the days for "extreme measures." In expanding on the first point of "An Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense", that "hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions", the clergymen argued that "such actions as incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not contributed to the resolution of our local problems."
The letter urged "the public" to "continue to show restraint should the demonstrations continue", and for the police to "remain calm and continue to protect our city from violence" while asking the "negro community" to withdraw support for the demonstrations and to argue for their rights in the courts and in meetings rather than on the streets. It concluded by reaffirming the authors' earlier public appeal for "law and order and common sense."
King's incarceration that afternoon for "parading without a permit" resulted in his eloquent "Letter from Birmingham Jail" which was published (though not by The Birmingham News) that summer. The letter was composed as a direct response to "A Call for Unity" and addressed directly to his "fellow clergymen" whom he hoped to meet as brothers in Christ after the "dark clouds of racial prejudice" were lifted away.
- Nolan Harmon, Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the Methodist Church
- Paul Hardin, Bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the Methodist Church
- C. C. J. Carpenter, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama
- Joseph A. Durick, Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Mobile-Birmingham
- Milton Grafman, Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, Birmingham
- George M. Murray, Bishop Coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama
- Edward V. Ramage, Moderator of the Synod of the Alabama Presbyterian Church in the United States
- Earl Stallings, Pastor of First Baptist Church Birmingham
- "A Call For Unity." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 31 Jan 2006, 05:21 UTC. 23 Apr 2006, 23:34 .
- Bass, S. Jonathan (2001) Blessed Are The Peacemakers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the "Letter from Birmingham Jail". Baton Rouge: LSU Press. ISBN 0807126551