|Part of the Civil Rights Movement|
|High school students are hit by a high-pressure water jet from a fire hose during a peaceful walk in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. As photographed by Charles Moore, images like this one, printed in Life, galvanized global support for the demonstrators.|
|Date||April 3 – May 10, 1963|
|Location||Birmingham, Alabama and Kelly Ingram Park|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
- ACMHR member
- Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth
- SCLC members
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- James Bevel
- Wyatt Tee Walker
- Dorothy Cotton
- Art Hanes (1961–1963)
- Albert Boutwell (1963–1967)
- Commissioner of Public Safety
- Commissioner of Public Improvements
J.T. Waggoner Sr.
- President of Chamber of Commerce
- Sid Smyer
The Birmingham campaign, also known as the Birmingham movement or Birmingham confrontation, was an American 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,
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.
In the early 1960s, Birmingham was one of the most racially divided cities in the United States, enforced both legally and culturally. Black citizens faced legal and economic disparities, and violent retribution when they attempted to draw attention to their problems.
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- Called it the most segregated city in the country.
- Protests in Birmingham began with a boycott led by Shuttlesworth meant to pressure business leaders to open employment to people of all races, and end segregation in public facilities, restaurants, schools, and stores.
- When local business and governmental leaders resisted the boycott, the SCLC agreed to assist.
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. When the campaign ran low on adult volunteers, James Bevel thought of the idea of having students become the main demonstrators in the Birmingham campaign.
He then trained and directed high school, college, and elementary school students in nonviolence, and asked them to participate in the demonstrations by taking a peaceful walk 50 at a time from the 16th Street Baptist Church to City Hall in order to talk to the mayor about segregation. This resulted in over a thousand arrests, and, as the jails and holding areas filled with arrested students, the Birmingham Police Department, at the direction of the city Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, used high-pressure water hoses and police attack dogs on the children and adult bystanders.
Not all of the bystanders were peaceful, despite the avowed intentions of SCLC to hold a completely nonviolent walk, but the students held to the nonviolent premise. Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC drew both criticism and praise for allowing children to participate and put themselves in harm’s way.
What was the significance of Birmingham during the civil rights movement?
In 1963, images of snarling police dogs unleashed against non-violent protesters and of children being sprayed with high-pressure hoses appeared in print and television news around the world. These dramatic scenes of violent police aggression against civil rights protesters from Birmingham, Alabama were vivid examples of segregation and racial injustice in America.
- The episode sickened many, including President John F.
- Ennedy, and elevated civil rights from a Southern issue to a pressing national issue.
- 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.
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.
- In addition to the daily work of the campaign that occurred at the motel, several key events of the campaign publicly unfolded at the property.
Public outrage over the events in Birmingham produced political pressure that helped to ensure passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 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.
Why did King decide to launch a campaign in Birmingham?
Why MLK chose Birmingham (Ala.) as focus for his campaign Martin Luther King Jr., with the Rev. Ralph Abernathy (center) and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, defied an injunction against protesting on Good Friday in 1963. They were arrested and held in solitary confinement in the Birmingham jail where King wrote his famous “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” (Courtesy of Birmingham Public Library Archives) In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr.
- Chose Birmingham, Alabama, as a new place of focus for his campaign.
- The city was notorious for its violence against blacks — 18 unsolved bombings had occurred over six years, and several Freedom Riders were hurt because of then-public safety commissioner Bull Connor’s failure to station guards at the bus stations.
King felt it was time for a change in Birmingham. After a series of sit-ins and arrests, however, King didn’t know what else to do; the arrests weren’t getting anything done except to fill up the already overcrowded jails. So King challenged the status quo and got himself arrested on Good Friday, April 12.
When placed in solitary confinement, he read an advertisement taken out by white ministers that derided his efforts in Birmingham, calling his actions “unwise and untimely.” Using the margins of the newspaper and toilet paper and a pencil, King wrote the famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” one of the most famous documents from the civil rights era.
In it, he wrote: “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piecing familiarity.
This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.'” After officials released King on April 20, he and the SCLC worked out a new tactic: the use of children in protests. The reason for this, according to James Bevel, on of King’s lieutenants, was that “most adults have bills to pay — house notes, rents, car notes, utility bills — but the young people are not hooked with all those responsibilities.” On May 2, black children between the ages of 6 and 18 marched downtown singing “We Shall Overcome.” The children were arrested and carted over to the jails in vans and buses.
Within three hours, the jails were overcrowded with hundreds of young blacks. The next day, more children showed up to march downtown, and Bull Connor ordered firefighters to turn high-pressure hoses on the young, nonviolent protesters. Blasts from the hoses hit the children so hard they were sent tumbling down the street.
Television cameras were capturing it all, of course, and the nation watched in shock. The attention led President Kennedy to propose a Civil Rights bill, and to demonstrate the bill’s support, the March on Washington was set up. Some 250,000 people of all races gathered in Washington, D.C. — it was here Martin Luther King Jr., gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Although Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, making sure blacks were included in all public facilities. A year later Johnson also signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, prohibiting illegal legislation such as literacy tests and poll taxes.
What was the effect of the Birmingham Campaign?
The Birmingham Campaign also sparked national demonstrations, riots, and international pressure. President Kennedy had previously been reluctant to call for national change, but the campaign ultimately forced him to propose reforms that Congress eventually passed as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
What is the importance of Birmingham in the UK?
Birmingham, second largest city of the United Kingdom and a metropolitan borough in the West Midlands metropolitan county. It lies near the geographic centre of England, at the crossing points of the national railway and motorway systems. Birmingham is the largest city of the West Midlands conurbation—one of England’s principal industrial and commercial areas—for which it acts as an administrative, recreational, and cultural centre.
The city lies approximately 110 miles (177 km) northwest of London, The historic core of Birmingham, along with Edgbaston and northern neighbourhoods such as Sutton Coldfield, Erdington, and Sheldon, lies in the historic county of Warwickshire, Northwestern neighbourhoods, such as Handsworth and Kingstanding, and Harborne in the southwest lie in the historic county of Staffordshire,
Southern and eastern neighbourhoods—such as Bartley Green, Northfield, Moseley, and Yardley—belong to the historic county of Worcestershire, Area city and metropolitan borough, 103 square miles (268 square km). Pop. (2001) city and metropolitan borough, 977,087; urban agglom., 2,284,093; (2011) city and metropolitan borough, 1,073,045; urban agglom. Britannica Quiz Know Your UK Geography Quiz
What did the Freedom Summer campaign led to?
In the summer of 1964 the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) began organizing a movement regarding voting rights. COFO was a group of Mississippi branches of the four major civil rights organizations: the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
One thousand out-of-state volunteers came together with thousands of Black Mississippians that summer. The Freedom Summer Project resulted in various meetings, protests, freedom schools, freedom housing, freedom libraries, and a collective rise in awareness of voting rights and disenfranchisement experienced by African Americans in Mississippi.
During that summer the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was also formed with the hope of increasing representation at the Democratic National Convention and giving testimony about the grave mistreatment of African Americans who tried to register to vote.
However, these actions and efforts to register Black voters were not well received by local officials and residents of the state. It is believed that 1,062 people were arrested, 80 Freedom Summer workers were beaten, 37 churches were bombed or burned, 30 Black homes or businesses were bombed or burned, four civil rights workers were killed, and at least three Mississippi African Americans were murdered because of their involvement in this movement.
Among the most notable victims were: James Chaney of Meridian, MS, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, both from New York. NY. In July of 1964 due to the increase in awareness of the civil rights movement and pressure from supporters across the nation, President Lyndon B.
Why was the Birmingham campaign more successful than the Albany movement?
The Birmingham Campaign proved that violence incited by the government made a movement more successful. With the government as the aggressors, media coverage helped Americans throughout the nation sympathize with those involved in the Civil Rights Movement.
What was King’s purpose for writing the letter?
“I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963 These words were spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr. during his ten-day jail term for violating a court injunction against any “parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing” in Birmingham.
- He came to Alabama’s largest city to lead an Easter weekend protest and boycott of downtown stores as a way of forcing white city leaders to negotiate a settlement of black citizens’ grievances.
- Ing wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in response to a public statement by eight white clergymen appealing to the local black population to use the courts and not the streets to secure civil rights.
The clergymen counseled “law and order and common sense,” not demonstrations that “incite to hatred and violence,” as the most prudent means to promote justice. This criticism of King was elaborated the following year by a fellow Baptist minister, Joseph H.
Jackson (president of the National Baptist Convention from 1953–1982), who delivered a speech counseling blacks to reject “direct confrontation” and “stick to law and order.” By examining King’s famous essay in defense of nonviolent protest, along with two significant criticisms of his direct action campaign, this lesson will help students assess various alternatives for securing civil rights for black Americans in a self-governing society.
Background If students know anything about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s, it will probably be Martin Luther King, Jr.’s role in leading the Movement along the path of nonviolent resistance against racial segregation. Most likely, they will have seen or read his “I Have a Dream” speech (August 28, 1963), delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, which closes with the famous line, “Free at last, free at last.
- Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” Next to the “I Have a Dream” speech, King’s most famous writing is his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” He began writing the lengthy essay while jailed over Easter weekend in 1963.
- He eventually arranged its publication as part of a public relations strategy to bring national attention to the struggle for civil rights in the South.
The Birmingham campaign of March and April 1963 followed a less successful protest the previous year in Albany, Georgia. Albany police chief Laurie Pritchett did not want to draw media attention to the Albany protest led by King and local citizens. He dispersed jailed protesters to surrounding jails to avoid overcrowding, and had local city officials post bail for King any time he got arrested.
- Ing eventually left Albany in August 1962 when the protest movement stalled for months and when the city reneged on its promise to desegregate bus and train stations.
- Discouraged by the Movement’s inability to provoke a reaction that would precipitate change, King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference decided to accept the invitation of Birmingham activist Rev.
Fred Shuttlesworth to agitate for change there. In Birmingham they devised a new strategy called “Project C” (for “confrontation”). Birmingham was Alabama’s largest city, but its 40 percent black population suffered stark inequities in education, employment, and income.
- In 1961, when Freedom Riders were mobbed in the city bus terminal, Birmingham drew unwelcome national attention.
- Moreover, recent years saw so many bombings in its black neighborhoods that went unsolved that the city earned the nickname “Bombingham.” In 1962, Birmingham even closed public parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, and golf courses to avoid federal court orders to desegregate.
Nevertheless, the fight to hold onto segregationist practices began to wear on some whites; the question remained, how best to address the concerns of local black citizens? When eight white clergymen (Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish) learned of King’s plans to stage mass protests in Birmingham during the Easter season in 1963, they published a statement voicing disagreement with King’s attempt to reform the segregated city.
It appeared in the Birmingham News on Good Friday, the very day King was jailed for violating the injunction against marching. The white clergymen complained that local black citizens were being “directed and led in part by outsiders” to engage in demonstrations that were “unwise and untimely.” The prudence of the Movement’s actions in Birmingham was also called into question by local merchants who believed the new city government and mayor—replacing the staunch segregationist Eugene “Bull” Connor (the commissioner of public safety who later employed fire hoses and police dogs against protesters, many of whom were high school and college students)—would offer a new opportunity to address black concerns.
Even the Justice Department under President John F. Kennedy urged King to leave Birmingham. The clergymen advised locals to follow “the principles of law and order and common sense,” to engage in patient negotiation, and, if necessary, seek redress in the courts.
- They called street protests and economic boycotts “extreme measures” and, thus, saw them as imprudent means of redressing grievances.
- Finally, if peaceful protests sparked hatred and riots, they would hold the protesters responsible for the violence that ensued.
- In spite of the court injunction, King went ahead with his protest march on Good Friday, and was promptly arrested, along with his close friend and fellow Baptist preacher Ralph Abernathy and fifty-two other protestors.
King served his jail sentence in solitary confinement, but soon began reading press reports of the Birmingham campaign in newspapers smuggled into his cell by his lawyer. Both local and national media expressed greater optimism for reform from the new city government and lesser sympathy for King and his nonviolent, direct action campaign.
But what irked him most was the criticism from the Birmingham clergymen, most of whom had actually criticized Governor George Wallace’s inauguration proclamation of “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” So King began to write, using the margins of the Birmingham News, King’s reply to the clergymen’s public letter of complaint grew to almost 7,000 words, and presented a detailed response to the criticisms of his fellow men of the cloth.
Employing theological and philosophical arguments, as well as reflections on American and world history, King defended the legitimacy of his intervention to desegregate Birmingham. He explained how the nonviolent movement employed peaceful mass protest and even civil disobedience to bring pressure to bear on the social and political status quo.
Given that the immediate audience of his letter were religious leaders, his letter made numerous references to biblical and historical events and figures they might find persuasive. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was a plea for a more robust and relevant participation of white church leaders (and members) in the affairs of this world, starting with the just complaints of their black neighbors and fellow Christians.
The following year, a longstanding critic* of King delivered an address that focused on an alternative way for black Americans to secure progress in civil rights. Dr. Joseph H. Jackson, president of the National Baptist Convention, was known as “the black pope” because of his leadership of the largest religious organization of blacks in the United States.
- Jackson thought King’s civil disobedience and nonviolent but confrontational methods undermined the very rule of law that black Americans desperately needed.
- Appealing to the historic contribution of blacks to the development and prosperity of America, Jackson counseled that less controversial and provocative means should be adopted in the struggle for civil rights.
He also encouraged them not to neglect their “ability, talent, genius, and capacity” in efforts of self-help and self-improvement. Citing the 1954 Brown v. Board decision and 1964 Civil Rights Act as important signs of progress and hope for black Americans, Jackson argued that to advance in America, blacks had to work with and not against the structures and ideals of the nation.
* In 1961, after failing to oust Jackson from the presidency of the National Baptist Convention, King broke away from the organization and founded a rival group, the Progressive National Baptist Convention. In 1967, Jackson would publish Unholy Shadows and Freedom’s Holy Light, which reaffirmed his “law and order’ approach to the civil rights struggle.
Content Standards NCSS. D1.2.6-8. Explain points of agreement experts have about interpretations and applications of disciplinary concepts and ideas associated with a compelling question. NCSS. D1.3.6-8. Explain points of agreement experts have about interpretations and applications of disciplinary concepts and ideas associated with a supporting question.
- NCSS. D2.Civ.2.9-12.
- Analyze the role of citizens in the U.S.
- Political system, with attention to various theories of democracy, changes in Americans’ participation over time, and alternative models from other countries, past and present. NCSS.
- Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.
NCSS. D2.His.2.9-12. Analyze change and continuity in historical eras. NCSS. D2.His.3.9-12. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to assess how the significance of their actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context. NCSS.
- Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras. NCSS.
- Gather relevant information from multiple sources representing a wide range of views while using the origin, authority, structure, context, and corroborative value of the sources to guide the selection.
Preparation Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and the public statement of the white Birmingham clergymen make a natural pairing for a discussion of the pros and cons of nonviolent resistance. However, because the “Letter to Martin Luther King from a Group of Clergymen” is a relatively short document compared with King’s 6,800-word reply, this lesson includes a longer statement critical of King’s campaign of mass protest and civil disobedience: Joseph H.
Jackson’s 1964 Address to the National Baptist Convention. This lesson contains written primary source documents, photographs, sound recordings, and worksheets, available both online and in the Text Document that accompanies this lesson. Students can read and analyze source materials entirely online, or do some of the work online and some in class from printed copies.
Read over the lesson. Bookmark the websites that you will use. If students will be working from printed copies in class, download the documents from the Text Document and duplicate as many copies as you will need. If students need practice in analyzing primary source documents, excellent resource materials are available at the EDSITEment-reviewed Learning Page of the Library of Congress,
What was the significance of the 1963 March on Washington?
On 28 August 1963, more than 200,000 demonstrators took part in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in the nation’s capital. The march was successful in pressuring the administration of John F. Kennedy to initiate a strong federal civil rights bill in Congress.
- During this event, Martin Luther King delivered his memorable ” I Have a Dream ” speech.
- The 1963 March on Washington had several precedents.
- In the summer of 1941 A.
- Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, called for a march on Washington, D.C., to draw attention to the exclusion of African Americans from positions in the national defense industry.
This job market had proven to be closed to blacks, despite the fact that it was growing to supply materials to the Allies in World War II. The threat of 100,000 marchers in Washington, D.C., pushed President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802, which mandated the formation of the Fair Employment Practices Commission to investigate racial discrimination charges against defense firms.
- In response, Randolph cancelled plans for the march.
- Civil rights demonstrators did assemble at the Lincoln Memorial in May 1957 for a Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom on the third anniversary of Brown v.
- Board of Education, and in October 1958, for a Youth March for Integrated Schools to protest the lack of progress since that ruling.
King addressed the 1957 demonstration, but due to ill health after being stabbed by Izola Curry, Coretta Scott King delivered his scheduled remarks at the 1958 event. By 1963, the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, most of the goals of these earlier protests still had not been realized.
High levels of black unemployment, work that offered most African Americans only minimal wages and poor job mobility, systematic disenfranchisement of many African Americans, and the persistence of racial segregation in the South prompted discussions about a large scale march for political and economic justice as early as 1962.
On behalf of the Negro American Labor Council (NALC), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Randolph wrote a letter on 24 May 1962 to Secretary Stewart Udall of the Department of the Interior regarding permits for a march culminating at the Lincoln Memorial that fall.
- Plans for the march were stalled when Udall encouraged the groups to consider the Sylvan Theater at the Washington Monument due to the complications of rerouting traffic and the volume of tourists at the Lincoln Memorial.
- In March 1963 Randolph telegraphed King that the NALC had begun planning a June march “for Negro job rights,” and asked for King’s immediate response (Randolph, 26 March 1963).
In May, at the height of the Birmingham Campaign, King joined Randolph, James Farmer of CORE, and Charles McDew of SNCC in calling for such an action later that year, declaring, “Let the black laboring masses speak!” (King et al., 7 May 1963) After notifying President Kennedy of their intent, the leaders of the major civil rights organizations set the march date for 28 August.
The stated goals of the protest included “a comprehensive civil rights bill” that would do away with segregated public accommodations; “protection of the right to vote”; mechanisms for seeking redress of violations of constitutional rights; “desegregation of all public schools in 1963”; a massive federal works program “to train and place unemployed workers”; and “a Federal Fair Employment Practices Act barring discrimination in all employment” (“Goals of Rights March”).
As the summer passed, the list of organizations participating in and sponsoring the event expanded to include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Urban League, the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in America, the United Auto Workers (UAW), and many others.
- The March on Washington was not universally embraced.
- It was condemned by the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X who referred to it as “the Farce on Washington,” although he attended nonetheless (Malcolm X, 278).
- The executive board of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations declined to support the march, adopting a position of neutrality.
Nevertheless, many constituent unions attended in substantial numbers. The diversity of those in attendance was reflected in the event’s speakers and performers. They included singers Marian Anderson, Odetta, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan; Little Rock civil rights veteran Daisy Lee Bates ; actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee ; American Jewish Congress president Rabbi Joachim Prinz; Randolph; UAW president Walter Reuther ; march organizer Bayard Rustin ; NAACP president Roy Wilkins ; National Urban League president Whitney Young and SNCC leader John Lewis,
A draft of John Lewis’ prepared speech, circulated before the march, was denounced by Reuther, Burke Marshall, and Patrick O’Boyle, the Catholic Archbishop of Washington, D.C., for its militant tone. In the speech’s original version Lewis charged that the Kennedy administration’s proposed Civil Rights Act was “too little and too late,” and threatened not only to march in Washington but to “march through the South, through the heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did.
We will pursue our own ‘scorched earth’ policy” (Lewis, 221; 224). In a caucus that included King, Randolph, and SNCC’s James Forman, Lewis agreed to eliminate those and other phrases, but believed that in its final form his address “was still a strong speech, very strong” (Lewis, 227).
The day’s high point came when King took the podium toward the end of the event and moved the Lincoln Memorial audience and live television viewers with what has come to be known as his “I Have a Dream” speech. King commented that “as television beamed the image of this extraordinary gathering across the border oceans, everyone who believed in man’s capacity to better himself had a moment of inspiration and confidence in the future of the human race,” and characterized the march as an “appropriate climax” to the summer’s events (King, ” I Have a Dream,” 125; 122).
Birmingham Campaign 1963: Challenging Segregation – Civil Rights in the U.S. | Academy 4 Social,
After the march, King and other civil rights leaders met with President Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House, where they discussed the need for bipartisan support of civil rights legislation. Though they were passed after Kennedy’s death, the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 reflect the demands of the march.
What was the goal of the Freedom Riders?
By The Obama Foundation – To mark the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, we spoke with veterans of the movement, as well as author Eric Etheridge, whose book Breach of Peace features a photo-history of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders and offers a window into what it felt like to live through this pivotal moment in history.
- Below you’ll find that Q&A, along with excerpts from our conversations with the Freedom Riders themselves.
- But to understand their story and their impact, it’s worth revisiting just how extraordinary their journey was.
- On May 4, 1961, 13 passengers boarded two buses in Washington D.C.
- Ticketed to arrive 13 days and 1,500 miles later in New Orleans.
It was a diverse group: seven Black and six white; three women and 10 men; with backgrounds that included a World War II Navy captain, a former stockbroker, a preacher, and a 21-year-old seminary student named John Lewis, on the cusp of graduation. There was little press coverage of their departure from Washington.
But in the weeks and months that followed, those riders and their reinforcements would capture the attention of the world. All had committed themselves to nonviolent resistance. Their goal was to challenge state laws that enforced segregation in transportation and call upon the federal government to enforce the recent Supreme Court Boynton v.
Virginia ruling prohibiting the segregation of interstate travel. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and other advocates had organized the rides to build upon recent successful boycotts and sit-ins against segregation throughout the South.
Within days of leaving Washington, riders were threatened, arrested, and beaten. In Rock Hill, South Carolina, John Lewis was assaulted by a dozen young men as he tried to enter a “whites-only” waiting room in the Greyhound terminal. On a highway outside Anniston, Alabama, a mob of nearly 200 firebombed one of the buses, only stopping their attack with the arrival of state troopers, who fired warning shots but arrested no one.
Shortly after, in a Birmingham bus terminal, a mob of Klansmen attacked the second group of riders, while members of the Bull Connor-led police department were nowhere to be seen for fifteen minutes following the bus’ arrival. But as word of the Riders’ courage spread, more Americans stood up to take their place.
- When a violent mob prevented the riders from leaving Birmingham, Diane Nash, a Fisk University student (and native of Chicago) recruited replacements from Nashville.
- When another mob attacked those riders in Montgomery, injuring bystanders, journalists, and federal escorts, more reinforcements arrived and pledged to continue on to Mississippi.
In the months that followed, hundreds of volunteers from across the country traveled to Mississippi to join the effort, where most were arrested, refused bail, and imprisoned through the summer. Through their defiance, the Freedom Riders attracted the attention of the Kennedy Administration and as a direct result of their work, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) issued regulations banning segregation in interstate travel that fall.
How did the government respond to the Birmingham campaign?
In April 1963 King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) joined with Birmingham, Alabama’s existing local movement, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), in a massive direct action campaign to attack the city’s segregation system by putting pressure on Birmingham’s merchants during the Easter season, the second biggest shopping season of the year.
As ACMHR founder Fred Shuttlesworth stated in the group’s ” Birmingham Manifesto, ” the campaign was ” a moral witness to give our community a chance to survive ” (ACMHR, 3 April 1963). The campaign was originally scheduled to begin in early March 1963, but was postponed until 2 April when the relatively moderate Albert Boutwell defeated Birmingham’s segregationist commissioner of public safety, Eugene ” Bull ” Connor, in a run-off mayoral election.
On 3 April the desegregation campaign was launched with a series of mass meetings, direct actions, lunch counter sit-ins, marches on City Hall, and a boycott of downtown merchants. King spoke to black citizens about the philosophy of nonviolence and its methods, and extended appeals for volunteers at the end of the mass meetings.
With the number of volunteers increasing daily, actions soon expanded to kneel-ins at churches, sit-ins at the library, and a march on the county building to register voters. Hundreds were arrested. On 10 April the city government obtained a state circuit court injunction against the protests. After heavy debate, campaign leaders decided to disobey the court order.
King declared: ” We cannot in all good conscience obey such an injunction which is an unjust, undemocratic and unconstitutional misuse of the legal process ” (ACMHR, 11 April 1963). Plans to continue to submit to arrest were threatened, however, because the money available for cash bonds was depleted, so leaders could no longer guarantee that arrested protesters would be released.
Ing contemplated whether he and Ralph Abernathy should be arrested. Given the lack of bail funds, King’s services as a fundraiser were desperately needed, but King also worried that his failure to submit to arrests might undermine his credibility. King concluded that he must risk going to jail in Birmingham.
He told his colleagues: ” I don’t know what will happen; I don’t know where the money will come from. But I have to make a faith act ” (King, 73). On Good Friday, 12 April, King was arrested in Birmingham after violating the anti-protest injunction and was kept in solitary confinement.
During this time King penned the ” Letter from Birmingham Jail ” on the margins of the Birmingham News, in reaction to a statement published in that newspaper by eight Birmingham clergymen condemning the protests. King’s request to call his wife, Coretta Scott King, who was at home in Atlanta recovering from the birth of their fourth child, was denied.
After she communicated her concern to the Kennedy administration, Birmingham officials permitted King to call home. Bail money was made available, and he was released on 20 April 1963. In order to sustain the campaign, SCLC organizer James Bevel proposed using young children in demonstrations.
- Bevel’s rationale for the Children’s Crusade was that young people represented an untapped source of freedom fighters without the prohibitive responsibilities of older activists.
- On 2 May more than 1,000 African American students attempted to march into downtown Birmingham, and hundreds were arrested.
When hundreds more gathered the following day, Commissioner Connor directed local police and fire departments to use force to halt the demonstrations. During the next few days images of children being blasted by high-pressure fire hoses, clubbed by police officers, and attacked by police dogs appeared on television and in newspapers, triggering international outrage.
While leading a group of child marchers, Shuttlesworth himself was hit with the full force of a fire hose and had to be hospitalized. King offered encouragement to parents of the young protesters: ” Don’t worry about your children, they’re going to be alright. Don’t hold them back if they want to go to jail.
For they are doing a job for not only themselves, but for all of America and for all mankind ” (King, 6 May 1963). In the meantime, the white business structure was weakening under adverse publicity and the unexpected decline in business due to the boycott, but many business owners and city officials were reluctant to negotiate with the protesters.
With national pressure on the White House also mounting, Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent Burke Marshall, his chief civil rights assistant, to facilitate negotiations between prominent black citizens and representatives of Birmingham’s Senior Citizen’s Council, the city’s business leadership. The Senior Citizen’s Council sought a moratorium on street protests as an act of good faith before any final settlement was declared, and Marshall encouraged campaign leaders to halt demonstrations, accept an interim compromise that would provide partial success, and negotiate the rest of their demands afterward.
Some black negotiators were open to the idea, and although the hospitalized Shuttlesworth was not present at the negotiations, on 8 May King told the negotiators he would accept the compromise and call the demonstrations to a halt. When Shuttlesworth learned that King intended to announce a moratorium he was furious—about both the decision to ease pressure off white business owners and the fact that he, as the acknowledged leader of the local movement, had not been consulted.
Feeling betrayed, Shuttlesworth reminded King that he could not legitimately speak for the black population of Birmingham on his own: ” Go ahead and call it off When I see it on TV, that you have called it off, I will get up out of this, my sickbed, with what little ounce of strength I have, and lead them back into the street.
And your name’ll be Mud ” (Hampton and Fayer, 136). King made the announcement anyway, but indicated that demonstrations might be resumed if negotiations did not resolve the situation shortly. By 10 May negotiators had reached an agreement, and despite his falling out with King, Shuttlesworth joined him and Abernathy to read the prepared statement that detailed the compromise: the removal of ” Whites Only ” and ” Blacks Only ” signs in restrooms and on drinking fountains, a plan to desegregate lunch counters, an ongoing ” program of upgrading Negro employment, ” the formation of a biracial committee to monitor the progress of the agreement, and the release of jailed protesters on bond ( ” The Birmingham Truce Agreement, ” 10 May 1963).
- Birmingham segregationists responded to the agreement with a series of violent attacks.
- That night an explosive went off near the Gaston Motel room where King and SCLC leaders had previously stayed, and the next day the home of King’s brother Alfred Daniel King was bombed.
- President John F.
- Ennedy responded by ordering 3,000 federal troops into position near Birmingham and making preparations to federalize the Alabama National Guard.
Four months later, on 15 September, Ku Klux Klan members bombed Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four young girls. King delivered the eulogy at the 18 September joint funeral of three of the victims, preaching that the girls were ” the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity” (King, ” Eulogy for the Martyred Children,” 18 September 1963).
What events led to desegregation in Birmingham quizlet?
What events led to desegregation in Birmingham? Protests, economic boycott, negative media.
Why did children protest in Birmingham?
On May 4, 1963, hundreds of children were led to jail following their arrest for protesting against racial discrimination near city hall in Birmingham, Alabama.
Why were the March on Washington and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 significant?
On August 28 1963, a quarter of a million people rallied in Washington, D.C. to demand an end to segregation, fair wages and economic justice, voting rights, education, and long overdue civil rights protections. Civil rights leaders took to the podium to issue urgent calls to action that still resonate decades later.
- Music played a powerful role at the March, and decades later, the performances remain some of the most iconic of the era.
- People traveled from every corner of the country to join the March, and the unprecedented turnout was the product of the tireless work of civil rights strategist Bayard Rustin, A.
Phillip Randolph, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a coalition of civil rights, labor and religious organizations. “Go by plane, by car, bus, any way you can get there- walk if necessary. We are pushing jobs, housing, desegregated schools. This is an urgent request. Longtime strategist Bayard Rustin led the logistical operations for the March, creating an Organizing Manual for local organizers that laid out the logistics, talking points, and demands. Organizers across the country went to work during the summer of 1963 to mobilize their communities and ensure safe passage to Washington.