Letter from Birmingham Jail, Part 1: Letter From Alabama Clergy to MLK

This letter from Alabama Clergymen was sent to Martin Luther King, Jr while he was in jail in Birmingham, Al. It prompted the famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Statement by Alabama Clergymen

12 April 1963

 We the undersigned 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 will have opportunity for a new constructive and realistic approach to racial problems.

However, we are not 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 accomplishment.

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 in Birmingham.

We comment the community as a whole, and the local new 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.

We further strongly urge our own Negro community to withdraw support form 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.

Signed by:

C.C.J. Carpenter, D.D., LL.D., Bishop of Alabama

Joseph A. Durick, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop, Diocese of Mobile-Alabama

Rabbi Milton L. Grafman, Temple Emanu-El, Birmingham Alabama

Bishop Paul Hardin, Bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the Methodist Church

Bishop Nolan B. Harmon, Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the Methodist Church

George M. Murray, D.D., LL.D., Bishop Coadjutor, Episcopal Diocese of Alabama

Edward V. Ramage, Moderator, Synod of the Alabama Presbyterian Church of the United States

Earl Stallings, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama

  • Pingback: Letter from Birmingham Jail, Part 2: Martin Luther King’s Reply

  • Drew

    Joseph A. Durick, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop, Diocese of Mobile-Alabama was a Catholic.

    Wikipedia: “Originally a conformist cleric, Durick and seven other colleagues wrote the letter “A Call For Unity”, calling on Martin Luther King and “outsiders” during the Birmingham protests of 1963 to stop and let the courts work toward integration. King responded with his Letter from Birmingham Jail, voicing disappointment in the white clergy, who should be “among our strongest allies”. This, and the message he got from Vatican II, led Durick to become a strong voice for civil rights[citation needed] in the segregated South, for which he was called a heretic and a communist by his tradition-bound congregation. In 1968-69 especially, he faced serious opposition in the form of boycotts of his public appearances.
    He succeeded as bishop on September 10, 1969, and resigned April 2, 1975, devoting himself fully to prison ministry. After six years of ministering to prisoners in various locations he was forced to semi-retire due to a severe heart problem and had to go through surgery.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Durick)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X