A Call For Unity

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"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.


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

See Also