A Call For Unity
"A Call For Unity" is an open letter from eight white clergymen which was issued during the opening days of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights' "Birmingham Campaign" of public demonstrations for civil rights in downtown Birmingham.
Along with three other clergymen, the authors of "A Call For Unity" had previously issued "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", addressed specifically to Black residents, urged more patience with moderates who were negotiating with the city's political leaders and police to address their concerns about flagrant injustices. It painted Southern Christian Leadership Conference head Martin Luther King Jr as an "outsider" who was only causing more harm by interfering in local issues.
The letter was sent out on Good Friday, April 12, the same day that King, Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth were arrested for "parading without a permit" for leading the "Good Friday march". It was first published on page 2 of The Birmingham News on Saturday April 13, 1963, under the headline ""White clergymen urge local Negroes to withdraw from demonstrations."
The letter, while recognizing "the natural impatience of those who feel their hopes are slow in being realized" made appeals to the "days of new hope" which were resulting from ongoing negotiations and from mounting public pressure for the city's elected leadership, saying that these are not the days for "extreme measures."
In expanding on the first point of their "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."
"A Call For Unity" provided the immediate impetus for King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail", which was addressed to eight clergymen, and responded to the open letter point-by-point. In closing, King expressed that he would be meet his "fellow clergymen" as brothers in Christ after the "dark clouds of racial prejudice" were lifted away.
King's Letter from Birmingham Jail was published (though not by The Birmingham News) that summer.
- 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
- An Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense
- A Statement by Some of the Negro Leaders of Metropolitan Birmingham
- Letter from Birmingham Jail
- "White Clergymen Urge Local Negroes to Withdraw from Demonstrations" (April 13, 1963) The Birmingham News, p. 2
- "A Call For Unity" (January 31, 2006) Wikipedia - accessed April 23, 2006
- 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
- Moore, Noah D. (April 25, 2018) "Moderate Resistance in "A Call for Unity": A Historical Perspective on Martin Luther King Jr.’s Prison Epistle" Journal of Undergraduate Research at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Vol. 18