“There are no outsiders”

The amazing aftermath of Birmingham, the sweeping Negro Revolution, revealed to people all over the land that there are no outsiders in all these fifty states of America. When a police dog buried his fangs in the ankle of a small child in Birmingham, he buried his fangs in the ankle of every American. The bell of man’s inhumanity to man does not toll for any one man. It tolls for you, for me, for all of us.

Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait, published 1964.

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The words “bad timing” came to be ghosts haunting our every move in Birmingham.

Yet people who used this argument were ignorant of the background of our planning. They did not know we had postponed our campaign twice. They did not know our reason for attacking in time to affect Easter shopping. Above all they did not realize that it was ridiculous to speak of timing when the clock of history showed that the Negro had already suffered one hundred years of delay.

Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait, published 1964.

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Commitment Card

Every volunteer was required to sign a Commitment Card that read:

I HEREBY PLEDGE MYSELF—MY PERSON AND BODY—TO THE NONVIOLENT  MOVEMENT. THEREFORE I WILL KEEP THE FOLLOWING TEN COMMANDMENTS:

1. MEDITATE daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.

2. REMEMBER always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation—not victory.

3. WALK and TALK in the manner of love, for God is love.

4. PRAY daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.

5. SACRIFICE personal wishes in order that all men might be free.

6. OBSERVE with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.

7. SEEK to perform regular service for others and for the world.

8. REFRAIN from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.

9. STRIVE to be in good spiritual and bodily health.

10. FOLLOW the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.

I sign this pledge, having seriously considered what I do and with the determination and will to persevere.

Name _________________________ Address _______________________ Phone _________________________

Nearest Relative ________________ Address _______________________

Besides demonstrations, I could also help the movement by: (Circle the proper items) Run errands, Drive my car, Fix food for volunteers, Clerical work, Make phone calls, Answer phones, Mimeograph, Type, Print signs, Distribute leaflets.

Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait, published 1964.

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Not all who volunteered could pass our strict tests

for service as demonstrators. But there was much to be done, over and above the dramatic act of presenting one’s body in the marches. There were errands to be run, phone calls to be made, typing, so many things. If a volunteer wasn’t suited to march, he was utilized in one of a dozen other ways to help the cause.

Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait, published 1964.

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We did not hesitate to call our movement an army.

But it was a special army, with no supplies but its sincerity, no uniform but its determination, no arsenal except its faith, no currency but its conscience. It was an army that would move but not maul. It was an army that would sing but not slay. It was an army that would flank but not falter. It was an army to storm bastions of hatred, to lay siege to the fortresses of segregation, to surround symbols of discrimination. It was an army whose allegiance was to God and whose strategy and intelligence were the eloquently simple dictates of conscience.

Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait, published 1964.

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Toward the end of the mass meetings, Abernathy or Shuttlesworth or I would extend an appeal for volunteers to serve in our nonviolent army. We made it clear that we would not send anyone out to demonstrate who had not convinced himself and us that he could accept and endure violence without retaliating. At the same time, we urged the volunteers to give up any possible weapons that they might have on their persons. Hundreds of people responded to this appeal.

Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait, published 1964.

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