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to King from Alabama Clergymen
April 12, 1963
Below is the
statement published in the Birmingham News and directed to Martin Luther
King, Jr., by eight Alabama clergymen. According to Stephen B. Oates in Let
the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Harper,
1994) King read it four days later in his cell at Birmingham Jail and was
inspired to respond with his famous letter.
clergymen are among those who, in January, issued “an appeal for law and order
and common sense,” in dealing with racial problems in Alabama. We expressed
understanding that honest convictions in racial matters could properly be
pursued in the courts, but urged that decisions of those courts should in the
meantime be peacefully obeyed.
Since that time
there had been some evidence of increased forbearance and a willingness to face
facts. Responsible citizens have undertaken to work on various problems which
cause racial friction and unrest. In Birmingham, recent public events have given
indication that we all have opportunity for a new constructive and realistic
approach to racial problems.
However, we are
now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens,
directed and led in part by outsiders. We recognize the natural impatience of
people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are
convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely.
We agree rather
with certain local Negro leadership which has called for honest and open
negotiation of racial issues in our area. And we believe this kind of facing of
issues can best be accomplished by citizens of our own metropolitan area, white
and Negro, meeting with their knowledge and experience of the local situation.
All of us need to face that responsibility and find proper channels for its
Just as we
formerly pointed out that “hatred and violence have no sanction in our
religious and political traditions,” we also point out 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. We do not
believe that these days of new hope are days when extreme measures are justified
We commend the
community as a whole, and the local news media and law enforcement officials in
particular, on the calm manner in which these demonstrations have been handled.
We urge the public to continue to show restraint should the demonstrations
continue, and the law enforcement officials to remain calm and continue to
protect our city from violence.
strongly urge our own Negro community to withdraw support from these
demonstrations, and to unite locally in working peacefully for a better
Birmingham. When rights are consistently denied, a cause should be pressed in
the courts and in negotiations among local leaders, and not in the streets. We
appeal to both our white and Negro citizenry to observe the principles of law
and order and common sense.
Bishop C. C. J.
Carpenter, Bishop Joseph A., Rabbi Milton. L. Grafman, Bishop Paul Hardin,
Bishop Nolan B. Harmon, Rev. George M. Murray, Rev. Edward V. Ramage, Rev. Earl
April 12, 1963