birmingham civil rights monument


"[22] He headed the planning of what he called Project C, which stood for "confrontation". Large groups of protesters sat in stores and sang freedom songs. We've gone too far to turn back now. Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, however, disagreed that the Birmingham campaign was the primary force behind the Civil Rights Act. The young Dan Rather reported for CBS News. [29] The police harassed religious leaders and protest organizers by ticketing cars parked at mass meetings and entering the meetings in plainclothes to take notes. "[106] In June 1963, the Jim Crow signs regulating segregated public places in Birmingham were taken down. [48] King and the SCLC had obeyed court injunctions in their Albany protests and reasoned that obeying them contributed to the Albany campaign's lack of success. Black citizens faced legal and economic disparities, and violent retribution when they attempted to draw attention to their problems. Peter Lang Publishing. Smyer then said that a single black clerk hired 90 days from when the new city government took office would be sufficient. "[26][a], A.G. Gaston, who was appalled at the idea of using children, was on the phone with white attorney David Vann trying to negotiate a resolution to the crisis. So for a brief time, Birmingham had two city governments attempting to conduct business. [100] The sheriff and chief of police admitted to Burke Marshall that they did not think they could handle the situation for more than a few hours. The editor of The Birmingham World, the city's black newspaper, called the direct actions by the demonstrators "wasteful and worthless", and urged black citizens to use the courts to change the city's racist policies. He's helped it as much as Abraham Lincoln. Leaders from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) along with Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) took up residence at the A.G. Gaston Motel in April through May of 1963 to direct Project C. From the motel, which served as their headquarters and also as an area to stage events and hold press conferences, the movement’s leaders strategized and made critical decision that shaped national events and significantly advanced the cause of the civil rights movement. "[81] The Washington Post editorialized, "The spectacle in Birmingham ... must excite the sympathy of the rest of the country for the decent, just, and reasonable citizens of the community, who have so recently demonstrated at the polls their lack of support for the very policies that have produced the Birmingham riots. King was released on April 20, 1963. [108] In fact, Sydney Smyer, president of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, re-interpreted the terms of the agreement. Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images. [47], On April 10, 1963, Bull Connor obtained an injunction barring the protests and subsequently raised bail bond for those arrested from $200 to $1,500 ($3,000 to $10,000 in 2021). However, not enough people were arrested to affect the functioning of the city and the wisdom of the plans were being questioned in the black community. However, Connor and his colleagues on the City Commission refused to accept the new mayor's authority. [36][37], Martin Luther King Jr.'s presence in Birmingham was not welcomed by all in the black community. In 1958, police arrested ministers organizing a bus boycott. Organizers planned to flood the downtown area businesses with black people. When the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiated a probe amid allegations of police misconduct for the arrests, Connor responded that he "[hadn't] got any damn apology to the FBI or anybody else", and predicted, "If the North keeps trying to cram this thing [desegregation] down our throats, there's going to be bloodshed. The Civil Rights Movement, Oxford. Two days after King and Shuttlesworth announced the settlement in Birmingham, Medgar Evers of the NAACP in Jackson, Mississippi demanded a biracial committee to address concerns there. "[50], The movement organizers found themselves out of money after the amount of required bail was raised. ... Two young protesters try to avoid the blast of a fire hose during a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama on May 7, 1963. Recently Updated [98] One group of children approached a police officer and announced, "We want to go to jail!" The decision to ignore the injunction had been made during the planning stage of the campaign. Isserman, Maurice, Kazin, Michael. [38] Black hotel owner A. G. Gaston agreed. [42] A few hundred protesters, including jazz musician Al Hibbler, were arrested, although Hibbler was immediately released by Connor. Twenty rabbis flew to Birmingham to support the cause, equating silence about segregation to the atrocities of the Holocaust. If black shoppers were found in these stores, organizers confronted them and shamed them into participating in the boycott. Shuttlesworth and King had announced that desegregation would take place 90 days from May 15. [96] Alabama Governor George Wallace sent state troopers to assist Connor. Marching in disciplined ranks, some of them using walkie-talkies, they were sent at timed intervals from various churches to the downtown business area. Black secretaries could not work for white professionals. [58] To re-energize the campaign, SCLC organizer James Bevel devised a controversial alternative plan he named D Day that was later called the "Children's Crusade" by Newsweek magazine. Organizers believed their phones were tapped, so to prevent their plans from being leaked and perhaps influencing the mayoral election, they used code words for demonstrations. [69] Kennedy was reported in The New York Times as saying, "an injured, maimed, or dead child is a price that none of us can afford to pay", although adding, "I believe that everyone understands their just grievances must be resolved. Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc. v. CBS, Inc. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, San Francisco. [38] A white Jesuit priest assisting in desegregation negotiations attested the "demonstrations [were] poorly timed and misdirected". (2000), This page was last edited on 15 January 2021, at 19:18. [94] The editor of The Birmingham News wired President Kennedy and pleaded with him to end the protests. [86] Well-known national figures arrived to show support. [40] In preparation for the protests, Walker timed the walking distance from the 16th Street Baptist Church, headquarters for the campaign, to the downtown area. Birmingham, JFK, and the Civil Rights Act of 1963: Implications For Elite Theory. Led by Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, Fred Shuttlesworth and others, the campaign of nonviolent direct action culminated in widely publicized confrontations between young black students and white civic authorities, and eventually led the municipal government to change the city's discrimination laws. Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham Board of Education, Armstrong v. Birmingham Board of Education, Smith v. Young Men's Christian Association, University of Alabama desegregation crisis, Tuskegee High School desegregation crisis, banned the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, "Children have changed America before, braving fire hoses and police dogs for civil rights", "Birmingham: Integration's Hottest Crucible", "Twenty Conservative Rabbis Fly to Birmingham to Back Negro Demands", "Gary T. Rowe Jr., 64, Who Informed on Klan In Civil Rights Killing, Is Dead", Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, My Soul Is Rested: Movement Days in the Deep South Remembered, A Film on the Letter from Birmingham Jail, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, John F. Kennedy's speech to the nation on Civil Rights, Chicago Freedom Movement/Chicago open housing movement, Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, Council for United Civil Rights Leadership, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, List of lynching victims in the United States, Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. "[26], The images had a profound effect in Birmingham. The eyes of the world are on Birmingham. White religious leaders denounced King and the other organizers, saying that "a cause should be pressed in the courts and the negotiations among local leaders, and not in the streets". "[125], Wyatt Tee Walker wrote that the Birmingham campaign was "legend" and had become the Civil Rights Movement's most important chapter. [122] In addition, Rowe and several other Klansmen also partook in the killing of Civil Rights activist Viola Liuzzo on March 25, 1965, in Lowndes County, Georgia after the Selma to Montgomery march.[120][121]. I am ready to go to jail, are you? "[59] At 3 p.m., the protest was over. "[114] Despite the apparent lack of immediate local success after the Birmingham campaign, Fred Shuttlesworth and Wyatt Tee Walker pointed to its influence on national affairs as its true impact. [6] Although the city's population of almost 350,000 was 60% white and 40% black,[7] Birmingham had no black police officers, firefighters, sales clerks in department stores, bus drivers, bank tellers, or store cashiers. Some of the lunch counters in department stores complied with the new rules. It marked the maturation of the SCLC as a national force in the civil rights arena of the land that had been dominated by the older and stodgier NAACP. This resulted in over a thousand arrests, and, as the jails and holding areas filled with arrested students, the Birmingham Police Department, led by Eugene "Bull" Connor, used high-pressure water hoses and police attack dogs on the children and adult bystanders. The rift between the businessmen and the politicians became clear when business leaders admitted they could not guarantee the protesters' release from jail. [34] In response to the boycott, the City Commission of Birmingham punished the black community by withdrawing $45,000 ($380,000 in 2021) from a surplus-food program used primarily by low-income black families. The Montgomery bus boycott began a campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience to protest segregation that attracted national and international attention. [59] When they continued, Connor ordered the city's fire hoses, set at a level that would peel bark off a tree or separate bricks from mortar, to be turned on the children. Hanes responded with a letter informing Shuttlesworth that his petition had been thrown in the garbage. When local business and governmental leaders resisted the boycott, SCLC agreed to assist. City parks and golf courses were opened again to black and white citizens. Shuttlesworth's home was repeatedly bombed, as was Bethel Baptist Church, where he was pastor. [57] In addition, although Connor had used police dogs to assist in the arrest of demonstrators, this did not attract the media attention that organizers had hoped for. Relevance Bevel and the organizers knew that high school students were a more cohesive group; they had been together as classmates since kindergarten. When the courts overturned the segregation of the city's parks, the city responded by closing them. [101], On May 8 at 4 a.m., white business leaders agreed to most of the protesters' demands. Children left the churches while singing hymns and "freedom songs" such as "We Shall Overcome". I want 'em to see the dogs work. [29], The SCLC decided that economic pressure on Birmingham businesses would be more effective than pressure on politicians, a lesson learned in Albany as few black citizens were registered to vote in 1962. Despite decades of disagreements, when the photos were released, "the black community was instantaneously consolidated behind King", according to David Vann, who would later serve as mayor of Birmingham. "I have never seen Martin so troubled", one of King's friends later said. [65][66], When Connor realized that the Birmingham jail was full, on May 3 he changed police tactics to keep protesters out of the downtown business area. On May 10, Fred Shuttlesworth and Martin Luther King Jr. told reporters that they had an agreement from the City of Birmingham to desegregate lunch counters, restrooms, drinking fountains and fitting rooms within 90 days, and to hire black people in stores as salesmen and clerks. Title. Singer Joan Baez arrived to perform for free at Miles College and stayed at the black-owned and integrated Gaston Motel. [86] Comedian Dick Gregory and Barbara Deming, a writer for The Nation, were both arrested. The Negro Motorist Green Book Exhibition “The Negro Motorist Green Book” exhibition debuts at the National Civil Rights Museum located at the Lorraine Motel which is not only the historic site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but it is also one of the few Green Book sites still remaining. Are you ready, are you ready to make the challenge? [18] After Shuttlesworth was arrested and jailed for violating the city's segregation rules in 1962, he sent a petition to Mayor Art Hanes' office asking that public facilities be desegregated. The Civil Rights Movement in the United States was a decades-long struggle by African Americans and their like-minded allies to end institutionalized racial discrimination, disenfranchisement and racial segregation in the United States. [104] By May 13, three thousand federal troops were deployed to Birmingham to restore order, even though Alabama Governor George Wallace told President Kennedy that state and local forces were sufficient. [65] More than 600 students were arrested; the youngest of these was reported to be eight years old. They caused downtown business to decline by as much as 40 percent, which attracted attention from Chamber of Commerce president Sidney Smyer, who commented that the "racial incidents have given us a black eye that we'll be a long time trying to forget". These dramatic scenes of violent police aggression against civil rights protesters from Birmingham, Alabama were vivid examples of segregation and racial injustice in America. Sort By: On the night of May 11, a bomb heavily damaged the Gaston Motel where King had been staying—and had left only hours before—and another damaged the house of A. D. King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s brother. [77] That evening King told worried parents in a crowd of a thousand, "Don't worry about your children who are in jail. Fred Shuttlesworth called the injunction a "flagrant denial of our constitutional rights" and organizers prepared to defy the order. "[35] After several business owners in Birmingham took down "white only" and "colored only" signs, Commissioner Connor told business owners that if they did not obey the segregation ordinances, they would lose their business licenses. I have never seen anything like it. The unemployment rate for black people was two and a half times higher than for white people. "[72] Although Wyatt Tee Walker was initially against the use of children in the demonstrations, he responded to criticism by saying, "Negro children will get a better education in five days in jail than in five months in a segregated school. The result, however, was a black community more motivated to resist. "[70] Malcolm X criticized the decision, saying, "Real men don't put their children on the firing line. "[99] Six hundred picketers reached downtown Birmingham. Someone threw a tear gas canister into Loveman's department store when it complied with the desegregation agreement; twenty people in the store required hospital treatment. [43], Martin Luther King Jr. was held in the Birmingham jail and was denied a consultation with an attorney from the NAACP without guards present. They showed films of the Nashville sit-ins organized in 1960 to end segregation at public lunch counters. When historian Jonathan Bass wrote of the incident in 2001, he noted that news of King's incarceration was spread quickly by Wyatt Tee Walker, as planned. He recruited girls who were school leaders and boys who were athletes. When the girls joined, however, the boys were close behind. After being filibustered for 75 days by "diehard southerners" in Congress, it was passed into law in 1964 and signed by President Lyndon Johnson. ISBN 0-631-22044-5; Eskew, Glenn (1997). However, no hiring of black clerks, police officers, and firefighters had yet been completed and the Birmingham Bar Association rejected membership by black attorneys. But for Birmingham: The Local and National Movements in the Civil Rights Struggle. To build morale and to recruit volunteers to go to jail, Ralph Abernathy spoke at a mass meeting of Birmingham's black citizens at the 6th Avenue Baptist Church: "The eyes of the world are on Birmingham tonight. "[31], Turmoil in the mayor's office also weakened the Birmingham city government in its opposition to the campaign. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called him “the chief counsel for the protest movement.” ISBN 0-8204-0806-9; Davis, Jack. [38], Protest organizers knew they would meet with violence from the Birmingham Police Department and chose a confrontational approach to get the attention of the federal government. Breakfast in the jail took four hours to distribute to all the prisoners. [93] Local rabbis disagreed and asked them to go home. White, Marjorie, Manis, Andrew, eds. Attorney General Robert Kennedy prepared to activate the Alabama National Guard and notified the Second Infantry Division from Fort Benning, Georgia that it might be deployed to Birmingham. [14] FBI informant Gary Thomas Rowe was hired to infiltrate the KKK and monitor their activities and plans. [15], Black organizers had worked in Birmingham for about ten years, as it was the headquarters of the Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC). Historian Glenn Eskew wrote that the campaign "led to an awakening to the evils of segregation and a need for reforms in the region. [124] ACMHR vice president Abraham Woods claimed that the rioting in Birmingham set a precedent for the "Burn, baby, burn" mindset, a cry used in later civic unrest in the Watts Riots, the 12th Street riots in Detroit, and other American cities in the 1960s. "[128], American civil rights campaign in Alabama, High school students are hit by a high-pressure water jet from a. Maurice Isserman & Michael Kazin, 'America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s', (Oxford, 2008), p. 90. Streets, sidewalks, stores, and buildings were overwhelmed with more than 3,000 protesters. Martin Luther King Jr. called it the most segregated city in the country. "[52] With Abernathy, King was among 50 Birmingham residents ranging in age from 15 to 81 years who were arrested on Good Friday, April 12, 1963. [97], No business of any kind was being conducted downtown. He had been organizing demonstrations similar to those in Birmingham to pressure Jackson's city government. [32] The Citizens for Progress was backed by the Chamber of Commerce and other white professionals in the city, and their tactics were successful. Soviet news commentary accused the Kennedy administration of neglect and "inactivity". The essay was a culmination of many of King's ideas, which he had touched on in earlier writings. In Birmingham, SNYC experienced both successes and failures, as well as arrests and official violence. I have to go help them", and hung up the phone. By May 6, the jails were so full that Connor transformed the stockade at the state fairgrounds into a makeshift jail to hold protesters. A neighborhood shared by white and black families experienced so many attacks that it was called "Dynamite Hill". Political leaders held fast, however. Despite the publicity surrounding King's arrest, the campaign was faltering because few demonstrators were willing to risk arrest. Organizer Wyatt Tee Walker joined Birmingham activist Shuttlesworth and began what they called Project C, a series of sit-ins and marches intended to provoke mass arrests. [16] A few years later, Birmingham's black population began to organize to effect change. The movement is famous for using non-violent protests and civil disobedience (peacefully refusing to follow unfair laws). However, campaign organizers offered no bail in order "to focus the attention of the media and national public opinion on the Birmingham situation". Described by historian Henry Hampton as a "morass", the Albany movement lost momentum and stalled. [20][22] Determined not to make the same mistakes in Birmingham, King and the SCLC changed several of their strategies. The struggle for equality is illustrated by places like the A.G. Gaston Motel, located throughout Birmingham, where civil rights activists organized, protested, and clashed with segregationists. Please contact the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute at the number above for general questions about Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. [95] Another 1,000 people were arrested, bringing the total to 2,500. [87] The car of Fannie Flagg, a local television personality and recent Miss Alabama finalist, was surrounded by teenagers who recognized her. [55] Several days later, Jacqueline Kennedy called Coretta Scott King to express her concern for King while he was incarcerated.[23]. [117], Birmingham's public schools were integrated in September 1963. James Bevel borrowed a bullhorn from the police and shouted, "Everybody get off this corner. [53], Twenty-four hours after his arrest, King was allowed to see local attorneys from the SCLC. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BRCI) is a modern museum that serves as a connection to the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, a collection of sites important to the Civil Rights Movement. The Birmingham campaign inspired the Civil Rights Movement in other parts of the South. Bevel found girls more receptive to his ideas because they had less experience as victims of white violence. We had to tell people, say look: if you go downtown and buy something, you're going to have to answer to us. "[124] According to Eskew, the riots that occurred after the bombing of the Gaston Motel foreshadowed rioting in larger cities later in the 1960s. [112][113], The Birmingham campaign, as well as George Wallace's refusal to admit black students to the University of Alabama, convinced President Kennedy to address the severe inequalities between black and white citizens in the South: "The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased cries for equality that no city or state or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them. They were accepted in Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and Presbyterian churches but turned away at others, where they knelt and prayed until they were arrested. (2008). Birmingham's black radio station, WENN, supported the new plan by telling students to arrive at the demonstration meeting place with a toothbrush to be used in jail. United States House Select Committee on Assassinations, Martin Luther King Jr. Records Collection Act, King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis, The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, Joseph Schwantner: New Morning for the World; Nicolas Flagello: The Passion of Martin Luther King. Protesters set off false fire alarms to occupy the fire department and its hoses. Black onlookers in the area of Kelly Ingram Park abandoned nonviolence on May 5. The confrontation between protesters and police was a product of the direct action campaign known as Project C. Project C—for confrontation—challenged unfair laws that were designed to limit freedoms of African Americans and ensure racial inequality. Some SCLC members grew frustrated with his indecisiveness. He had, however, previously promised to lead the marchers to jail in solidarity, but hesitated as the planned date arrived. [12] According to Time magazine in 1958, the only thing white workers had to gain from desegregation was more competition from black workers. [45] Some white Birmingham residents were supportive as the boycott continued. People Associated with the Civil Rights Movement, Locations Associated with the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham. University of North Carolina Press. She rolled down the window and shouted to the children, "I'm with you all the way! The president told her she could expect a call from her husband soon. The Birmingham campaign, also known as the Birmingham movement or Birmingham confrontation, was a movement organized in early 1963 by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to bring attention to the integration efforts of African Americans in Birmingham, Alabama. [120][121] Rowe was involved, along with the Birmingham Police, with the KKK attacks on the Freedom Riders, led by Fred Shuttlesworth, in Anniston, Alabama on May 14, 1961. Fire hoses were used once again, injuring police and Fred Shuttlesworth, as well as other demonstrators. freedom. [30] Connor was so antagonistic towards the Civil Rights Movement that his actions galvanized support for black Americans. Some considered the use of children controversial, including incoming Birmingham mayor Albert Boutwell and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who condemned the decision to use children in the protests. [44] Most white residents of Birmingham expressed shock at the demonstrations. [23][24] King summarized the philosophy of the Birmingham campaign when he said: "The purpose of ... direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation". "[85] To prevent further marches, Connor ordered the doors to the churches blocked to prevent students from leaving. [119], Four months after the Birmingham campaign settlement, someone bombed the house of NAACP attorney Arthur Shores, injuring his wife in the attack. The Birmingham campaign was a model of nonviolent direct action protest and, through the media, drew the world's attention to racial segregation in the South. On September 15, 1963, Birmingham again earned international attention when Ku Klux Klan members bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church on a Sunday morning and killed four young girls. James Bevel wove in and out of the crowds warning them, "If any cops get hurt, we're going to lose this fight. During a kind of truce, protesters went home. It responded to eight politically moderate white clergymen who accused King of agitating local residents and not giving the incoming mayor a chance to make any changes. Bass suggested that "Letter from Birmingham Jail" was pre-planned, as was every move King and his associates made in Birmingham. [125] A study of the Watts riots concluded, "The 'rules of the game' in race relations were permanently changed in Birmingham. [116] The Civil Rights Act applied to the entire nation, prohibiting racial discrimination in employment and in access to public places. To disperse them, Connor ordered police to use German shepherd dogs to keep them in line. In 1965 Shuttlesworth assisted Bevel, King, and the SCLC to lead the Selma to Montgomery marches, intended to increase voter registration among black citizens. The struggle for equality is illustrated by places like the A.G. Gaston Motel, located throughout Birmingham, where civil rights activists organized, protested, and clashed with segregationists. A local black attorney complained in Time that the new city administration did not have enough time to confer with the various groups invested in changing the city's segregation policies. Connor, who had run for several elected offices in the months leading up to the campaign, had lost all but the race for Public Safety Commissioner. Urged by Kennedy, the United Auto Workers, National Maritime Union, United Steelworkers Union, and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) raised $237,000 in bail money ($1,980,000 in 2021) to free the demonstrators. News of the mass arrests of children had reached Western Europe and the Soviet Union. Pastors urged their congregations to avoid shopping in Birmingham stores in the downtown district. In the spring of 1963, before Easter, the Birmingham boycott intensified during the second-busiest shopping season of the year. "[88], Birmingham's fire department refused orders from Connor to turn the hoses on demonstrators again,[89] and waded through the basement of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church to clean up water from earlier fire-hose flooding. In November 1962, Connor lost the race for mayor to Albert Boutwell, a less combative segregationist. 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