ACMHR Declaration of Principles

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The ACMHR Declaration of Principles is the foundational document drafted by the founders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and distributed for approval at a mass meeting at Sardis Baptist Church on June 5, 1956.

Fred Shuttlesworth, former membership chair for the Alabama chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People before it was banned from the state, presided over the organizational meeting of the "committee on resolutions" on the afternoon of Monday, June 4 at the Smith & Gaston Funeral Chapel. Among the group of 11 ministers and laymen were Nelson Smith Jr, R. L. Alford, C. L. Vincent, C. H. George, Oscar Adams Jr, Lucinda Robey, C. J. Evans, G. C. Gissentanner, and Louis Willie.

In addition to the foundational principles reproduced below, the committee pledged to appoint a steering committee to fill a slate of subcommittees on finance, education, recreation, transportation, police protection, civic rights, jobs, voting and registration, housing, and youth. The committee endorsed efforts to establish as Federal Loan Association for Birmingham blacks and set a mass meeting for the following night at Sardis Baptist Church, to be followed by one on Monday June 11 at Smith's New Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Declaration of Principles

  • (A) As free and independent Citizens of the United States of America, and of the State of Alabama, we express publicly our determination to press forward persistently for Freedom and Democracy, and the removal from our society any forms of Second Class Citizenship.
  • (B) We are not echoing the will or sentiments of Outsiders; but our own convictions and Will to be free, so help us God. We will not become Rabblerousers; but will be sober, firm, peaceful, and resolute, within the Framework of Goodwill.
  • (C) We Believe in our Courts and in Justice administered by our Courts; but we now point out to the Nation’s conscience a strange paradox: One State District Court Judge can rule and immediately it is obeyed over the entire State — even if questioned or disagreed with; But even a unanimous Decision by 9 Judges of the U. S. Supreme Court (set up by the constitution to be the Highest and Final Court), and Rulings by Federal District Judges, representing the whole United States of America are not only questioned and disagreed with, but Openly Flaunted, Disregarded, and Totally Ignored.
  • (D) We Believe in State’s Rights; but we believe that any first RIGHTS are HUMAN RIGHTS. And the first right of a State is to Protect Human Rights, and to guarantee to each of its Citizens the same Rights and Privileges.
  • (E) We heartily concur in and endorse the Rulings of the Federal Judiciary that All public Facilities belong to and should be open to All on the same and equal terms; and we Hope, Trust, and Pray that efforts to commence should be begun by Officials in the Spirit of Brotherhood and Goodwill; without the necessity of Lawsuits having to be filed.
  • (F) We most highly commend the activities of the Officials and Citizens everywhere for the efforts made for Civil Rights, and we thank God for them. But especially do we applaud Negroes in Montgomery, Ala., and Tallahassee, Fla., conducting themselves in the struggle so valiantly, and without rancor, hate, and smear, and above all without violence.
  • (G) As to Gradualism, we hold that it means to move forward, slowly maybe but surely; not vacillation, procrastination, or evasion. The hastily enacted laws and enflamed statements of Public Officials do not lead us to embrace Gradualism. We want a beginning NOW! We have already waited 100 years!!
  • (H) We Negroes shall never become enemies of the White People: We are all Americans; But America was born in the struggle for Freedom from Tyranny and Oppression. We shall never bomb any homes or lynch any persons; but we must, because of History and the future, march to Complete Freedom — with unbowed heads, praying hearts, and an unyielding determination. And we seek Guidance from our Heavenly Father; and from all men, Goodwill and understanding.
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 Smith Jr · 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


  • "Proceedings of the Committee on Resolutions" (June 4, 1956) reprinted in "The Original Declaration of Principles" (June 2006) Birmingham Historical Society newsletter.