An Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense

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"An Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense" was an open letter to all people of goodwill in Alabama written by a group of white clergymen in anticipation of court-ordered desegregation of schools. It was printed in several newspapers around the state on January 16, 1963, four days after Governor George C. Wallace promised "segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever," in his inaugural address.

While acknowledging that "the issues are not simple," the signatories want to provide leadership on the basis of knowing "the ultimate spirit in which all problems of human relations must be solved."

The body of the letter consists of seven points which the clergymen affirm and commend:

  1. That hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions.
  2. That there may be disagreement concerning laws and social change without advocating defiance, anarchy and subversion.
  3. That laws may be tested in courts or changed by legislatures, but not ignored by whims of individuals.
  4. That constitutions may be amended or judges impeached by proper action, but our American way of life depends upon obedience to the decisions of courts of competent jurisdiction in the meantime.
  5. That no person's freedom is safe unless every person's freedom is equally protected.
  6. That the freedom of speech must at all costs be preserved and exercised without fear of recrimination or harassment.
  7. That every human being is created in the image of God and is entitled to respect as a fellow human being with all basic rights, privileges, and responsibilities which belong to humanity.

Signatories

Eight of the eleven signatories followed up with another letter, "A Call for Unity" on Good Friday as Martin Luther King, Jr was preparing to march through downtown to the Birmingham City Hall with Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth in open defiance of the Birmingham City Commission. King's incarceration for "parading without a permit" resulted in the eloquent "Letter from Birmingham Jail" which was widely published that summer.

Civil Rights Movement (19561965)
Documents Segregation laws · ACMHR Declaration of Principles · Nonviolence pledge · Birmingham Manifesto · A Call For Unity · Appeal for Law and Order · Letter from Birmingham Jail · Birmingham Truce · Civil Rights Act of 1964
Events Freedom Rides · Who Speaks for Birmingham? · Selective Buying Campaign · Birmingham Campaign · Good Friday march · Children's Crusade · Police dogs and firehoses · List of racially-motivated bombings · 1963 church bombing · May 1963 riot
Organizations Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights · Birmingham City Commission · Ku Klux Klan · Miles College · NAACP · Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Activists Fred Shuttlesworth · Martin Luther King Jr · A. D. King · James Bevel · Frank Dukes · Edward Gardner · Lola Hendricks · Colonel Stone Johnson · Autherine Lucy · Vivian Malone · Joseph Lowery · James Orange · Nelson H. Smith · John Porter · Abraham Woods Jr
Other figures Albert Boutwell · Robert Chambliss · Bull Connor · A. G. Gaston · Art Hanes · Lucius Pitts · Sidney Smyer · J. B. Stoner · "8 white clergymen" · Virgil Ware · "4 little girls"
Places Kelly Ingram Park · A. G. Gaston Motel · Movement churches
Legacy Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail · Birmingham Civil Rights Institute · Birmingham Pledge

References