[11], In addition, Birmingham's economy was stagnating as the city was shifting from blue collar to white collar jobs. Political leaders held fast, however. 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. Because King was the major fundraiser, his associates urged him to travel the country to raise bail money for those arrested. Historian Glenn Eskew wrote that the campaign "led to an awakening to the evils of segregation and a need for reforms in the region. [32] The Citizens for Progress was backed by the Chamber of Commerce and other white professionals in the city, and their tactics were successful. [36][37], Martin Luther King Jr.'s presence in Birmingham was not welcomed by all in the black community. "[99] Six hundred picketers reached downtown Birmingham. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called him “the chief counsel for the protest movement.” [117], Birmingham's public schools were integrated in September 1963. Governor Wallace sent National Guard troops to keep black students out but President Kennedy reversed Wallace by ordering the troops to stand down. [4] 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. Fire hoses were used once again, injuring police and Fred Shuttlesworth, as well as other demonstrators. 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. [61], Bevel and the SCLC held workshops to help students overcome their fear of dogs and jails. The arrival of state troopers only further angered the crowd; in the early hours of the morning, thousands of black people rioted, numerous buildings and vehicles were burned, and several people, including a police officer, were stabbed. It was "the chief watershed of the nonviolent movement in the United States. The result, however, was a black community more motivated to resist. "[59] The D Day campaign received front page coverage by The Washington Post and The New York Times. [12] According to Time magazine in 1958, the only thing white workers had to gain from desegregation was more competition from black workers. 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. Described by historian Henry Hampton as a "morass", the Albany movement lost momentum and stalled. It burnished King's reputation, ousted Connor from his job, forced desegregation in Birmingham, and directly paved the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibited racial discrimination in hiring practices and public services throughout the United States. The unemployment rate for black people was two and a half times higher than for white people. He's helped it as much as Abraham Lincoln. He recruited girls who were school leaders and boys who were athletes. When one black woman entered Loveman's department store to buy her children Easter shoes, a white saleswoman said to her, "Negro, ain't you ashamed of yourself, your people out there on the street getting put in jail and you in here spending money and I'm not going to sell you any, you'll have to go some other place. In 1965 Shuttlesworth assisted Bevel, King, and the SCLC to lead the Selma to Montgomery marches, intended to increase voter registration among black citizens. In 1958, police arrested ministers organizing a bus boycott. The president told her she could expect a call from her husband soon. After initiating the idea he organized and educated the students in nonviolence tactics and philosophy. Smaller groups of decoys were set out to distract police attention from activities at the 16th Street Baptist Church. When layoffs were necessary, black employees were often the first to go. [98] One group of children approached a police officer and announced, "We want to go to jail!" [90] White business leaders met with protest organizers to try and arrange an economic solution but said they had no control over politics. Large groups of protesters sat in stores and sang freedom songs. Upon picking up his last paycheck, Bull Connor remarked tearfully, "This is the worst day of my life. [48] Incoming mayor Albert Boutwell called King and the SCLC organizers "strangers" whose only purpose in Birmingham was "to stir inter-racial discord". (2008). [44] Most white residents of Birmingham expressed shock at the demonstrations. [59] D Day called for students from Birmingham elementary schools and high schools as well as nearby Miles College to take part in the demonstrations. [26][27] He also apparently believed that the Civil Rights Movement was a Communist plot, and after the churches were bombed, Connor blamed the violence on local black citizens. Significantly lower pay scales for black workers at the local steel mills were common. [116] The Civil Rights Act applied to the entire nation, prohibiting racial discrimination in employment and in access to public places. A confederate monument in Huntsville was also removed in October and was reassembled in the Confederate burial section of … 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. [25], A significant factor in the success of the Birmingham campaign was the structure of the city government and the personality of its contentious Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene "Bull" Connor. 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. He also saw that adults in the black community were divided about how much support to give the protests. [13] Fifty unsolved racially motivated bombings between 1945 and 1962 had earned the city the nickname "Bombingham". [54] Mrs. King was recuperating at home after the birth of their fourth child when she received a call from President Kennedy the Monday after the arrest. 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. [76] Black parents and adults who were observing cheered on the marching students, but when the hoses were turned on, bystanders began to throw rocks and bottles at the police. Wilkins gave credit to other movements, such as the Freedom Rides, the integration of the University of Mississippi, and campaigns to end public school segregation. [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. The situation reached a crisis on May 7, 1963. When the students crouched or fell, the blasts of water rolled them down the asphalt streets and concrete sidewalks. "[85] To prevent further marches, Connor ordered the doors to the churches blocked to prevent students from leaving. 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. Bevel, a veteran of earlier nonviolent student protests with the Nashville Student Movement and SNCC, had been named SCLC's Director of Direct Action and Nonviolent Education. The young Dan Rather reported for CBS News. Black secretaries could not work for white professionals. (2001). Streets, sidewalks, stores, and buildings were overwhelmed with more than 3,000 protesters. Those in jail would be released on bond or their own recognizance. They clapped and laughed while being arrested and awaiting transport to jail. 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. Public outrage over the events in Birmingham produced political pressure that helped to ensure passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Mayor Boutwell appointed a biracial committee to discuss further changes. For six weeks supporters of the boycott patrolled the downtown area to make sure black shoppers were not patronizing stores that promoted or tolerated segregation. The NAACP’s long battle against de jure segregation culminated in the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v.Board of Education decision, which overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine. When the officer pointed the way, the students ran across Kelly Ingram Park shouting, "We're going to jail! [95] Another 1,000 people were arrested, bringing the total to 2,500. "[84] Commissioner Connor was overheard saying, "If you'd ask half of them what freedom means, they couldn't tell you. They showed films of the Nashville sit-ins organized in 1960 to end segregation at public lunch counters. [49] In a press release they explained, "We are now confronted with recalcitrant forces in the Deep South that will use the courts to perpetuate the unjust and illegal systems of racial separation". 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. [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". [77][78] Horrified at what the Birmingham police were doing to protect segregation, New York Senator Jacob K. Javits declared, "the country won't tolerate it", and pressed Congress to pass a civil rights bill. [93] Local rabbis disagreed and asked them to go home. 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. The authorities who tried, by these brutal means, to stop the freedom marchers do not speak or act in the name of the enlightened people of the city. Shuttlesworth recalled a woman whose $15 hat ($130 in 2021) was destroyed by boycott enforcers. Using scraps of paper given to him by a janitor, notes written on the margins of a newspaper, and later a legal pad given to him by SCLC attorneys, King wrote his essay "Letter from Birmingham Jail". [79] Similar reactions were reported by Kentucky Senator Sherman Cooper, and Oregon Senator Wayne Morse, who compared Birmingham to South Africa under apartheid. [102] Commissioner Connor and the outgoing mayor condemned the resolution.[103]. "I have never seen Martin so troubled", one of King's friends later said. Pastors urged their congregations to avoid shopping in Birmingham stores in the downtown district. [65] More than 600 students were arrested; the youngest of these was reported to be eight years old. [5] They were to leave in smaller groups and continue on their courses until arrested. The Birmingham Fire Department interrupted such meetings to search for "phantom fire hazards". He had, however, previously promised to lead the marchers to jail in solidarity, but hesitated as the planned date arrived. Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images. Described as an "arch-segregationist" by Time magazine, Connor asserted that the city "ain't gonna segregate no niggers and whites together in this town [sic]". 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". The Rev. Marching in disciplined ranks, some of them using walkie-talkies, they were sent at timed intervals from various churches to the downtown business area. Marshall faced a stalemate when merchants and protest organizers refused to budge.[83]. 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. "[71], King, who had been silent and then out of town while Bevel was organizing the children, was impressed by the success of the children's protests. [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. Birmingham, Alabama was, in 1963, "probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States", according to King. Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc. v. CBS, Inc. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, San Francisco. 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. ... Two young protesters try to avoid the blast of a fire hose during a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama on May 7, 1963. [107], The reputation of Martin Luther King Jr. soared after the protests in Birmingham, and he was lauded by many as a hero. [127] Jonathan Bass declared that "King had won a tremendous public relations victory in Birmingham" but also stated pointedly that "it was the citizens of the Magic City, both black and white, and not Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC, that brought about the real transformation of the city. [28] These goals included the desegregation of Birmingham's downtown stores, fair hiring practices in shops and city employment, the reopening of public parks, and the creation of a bi-racial committee to oversee the desegregation of Birmingham's public schools. When local business and governmental leaders resisted the boycott, SCLC agreed to assist. But for Birmingham: The Local and National Movements in the Civil Rights Struggle. [115] President Kennedy's administration drew up the Civil Rights Act bill. "[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. [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. Recently Updated "[20], King and the SCLC had recently been involved in a campaign to desegregate the city of Albany, Georgia, but did not see the results they had anticipated. [15], Black organizers had worked in Birmingham for about ten years, as it was the headquarters of the Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC). Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, Washington, D.C. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, San Jose, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Birmingham_campaign&oldid=1000583939, African-American history in Birmingham, Alabama, Civil rights protests in the United States, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, Outbreak of mass demonstrations throughout, Burnished Martin Luther King Jr.'s reputation. Public outrage over the events in Birmingham produced political pressure that helped to ensure passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. "[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. King hesitated to approve the use of children,[60] but Bevel believed that children were appropriate for the demonstrations because jail time for them would not hurt families economically as much as the loss of a working parent. Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC drew both criticism and praise for allowing children to participate and put themselves in harm's way. 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. Because they believed Connor's extreme conservatism slowed progress for the city as a whole, a group of white political moderates worked to defeat him. [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. 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. The movement is famous for using non-violent protests and civil disobedience (peacefully refusing to follow unfair laws). Some of the lunch counters in department stores complied with the new rules. In the spring of 1963, before Easter, the Birmingham boycott intensified during the second-busiest shopping season of the year. Birmingham, JFK, and the Civil Rights Act of 1963: Implications For Elite Theory. [97], No business of any kind was being conducted downtown. "[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. ISBN 0-631-22044-5; Eskew, Glenn (1997). 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. When the courts overturned the segregation of the city's parks, the city responded by closing them. If you win in Birmingham, as Birmingham goes, so goes the nation. Former NAACP Branch Secretary Rosa Parks’ refusal to yield her seat to a white man sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the modern civil rights movement. The day's arrests brought the total number of jailed protesters to 1,200 in the 900-capacity Birmingham jail. National business owners pressed the Kennedy administration to intervene. "[106] In June 1963, the Jim Crow signs regulating segregated public places in Birmingham were taken down. [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. "[46] King promised a protest every day until "peaceful equality had been assured" and expressed doubt that the new mayor would ever voluntarily desegregate the city. Some SCLC members grew frustrated with his indecisiveness. [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. "[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. 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. Martin Luther King Jr. called it the most segregated city in the country. Black citizens faced legal and economic disparities, and violent retribution when they attempted to draw attention to their problems. He surveyed the segregated lunch counters of department stores, and listed federal buildings as secondary targets should police block the protesters' entrance into primary targets such as stores, libraries, and all-white churches. The mood was compared to that of a school picnic. [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. 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. King was released on April 20, 1963. News of the mass arrests of children had reached Western Europe and the Soviet Union. James Bevel wove in and out of the crowds warning them, "If any cops get hurt, we're going to lose this fight. [30] Connor was so antagonistic towards the Civil Rights Movement that his actions galvanized support for black Americans. [19] Looking for outside help, Shuttlesworth invited Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC to Birmingham, saying, "If you come to Birmingham, you will not only gain prestige, but really shake the country. After Alabama banned the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1956,[17] Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth formed the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) the same year to challenge the city's segregation policies through lawsuits and protests. I am ready to go to jail, are you? Police removed the barricades and re-opened the streets to traffic. After King's arrest, the chains' profits began to erode. Bevel found girls more receptive to his ideas because they had less experience as victims of white violence. By May 6, the jails were so full that Connor transformed the stockade at the state fairgrounds into a makeshift jail to hold protesters. [43], The SCLC's goals were to fill the jails with protesters to force the city government to negotiate as demonstrations continued. White, Marjorie, Manis, Andrew, eds. Connor promised, "You can rest assured that I will fill the jail full of any persons violating the law as long as I'm at City Hall. [66] Although Bevel informed Connor that the march was to take place, Connor and the police were dumbfounded by the numbers and behavior of the children. 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. [9] Racial segregation of public and commercial facilities throughout Jefferson County was legally required, covered all aspects of life, and was rigidly enforced. [56] King's arrest attracted national attention, including that of corporate officers of retail chains with stores in downtown Birmingham. [86] Well-known national figures arrived to show support. 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. [45] Some white Birmingham residents were supportive as the boycott continued. [94] The editor of The Birmingham News wired President Kennedy and pleaded with him to end the protests. 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. [107], Desegregation in Birmingham took place slowly after the demonstrations. They were accepted in Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and Presbyterian churches but turned away at others, where they knelt and prayed until they were arrested. [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. Protesters set off false fire alarms to occupy the fire department and its hoses. "[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. [119], Four months after the Birmingham campaign settlement, someone bombed the house of NAACP attorney Arthur Shores, injuring his wife in the attack. 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. [10] Only 10 percent of the city's black population was registered to vote in 1960. A neighborhood shared by white and black families experienced so many attacks that it was called "Dynamite Hill". 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. When the girls joined, however, the boys were close behind. Title. 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. [20][22] Determined not to make the same mistakes in Birmingham, King and the SCLC changed several of their strategies. [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 Birmingham campaign inspired the Civil Rights Movement in other parts of the South. [16] A few years later, Birmingham's black population began to organize to effect change. The rift between the businessmen and the politicians became clear when business leaders admitted they could not guarantee the protesters' release from jail. When Gaston looked out the window and saw the children being hit with high-pressure water, he said, "Lawyer Vann, I can't talk to you now or ever. 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. He could have been released on bail at any time, and jail administrators wished him to be released as soon as possible to avoid the media attention while King was in custody. We're going on in spite of dogs and fire hoses. Campaign participant Joe Dickson recalled, "We had to go under strict surveillance. Singer Joan Baez arrived to perform for free at Miles College and stayed at the black-owned and integrated Gaston Motel. 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". The Department of Justice is looking at Birmingham. [62] Flyers were distributed in black schools and neighborhoods that said, "Fight for freedom first then go to school" and "It's up to you to free our teachers, our parents, yourself, and our country."[63]. The essay was a culmination of many of King's ideas, which he had touched on in earlier writings. "[125], Wyatt Tee Walker wrote that the Birmingham campaign was "legend" and had become the Civil Rights Movement's most important chapter. Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? The episode sickened many, including President John F. Kennedy, and elevated civil rights from a Southern issue to a pressing national issue. When Martin Luther King Jr. called his wife, their conversation was brief and guarded; he correctly assumed that his phones were tapped. [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. King became Time's Man of the Year for 1963 and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, however, disagreed that the Birmingham campaign was the primary force behind the Civil Rights Act. [31] They claimed on a technicality that their terms not expire until 1965 instead of in the spring of 1963. 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. [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. Commissioner Connor expressed regret at missing seeing Shuttlesworth get hit and said he "wished they'd carried him away in a hearse". Relevance Also visible throughout the city are African American institutions and businesses that knit together Birmingham’s black community and laid a critical foundation for the fight for civil and political rights. [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. In Birmingham, their campaign tactics focused on more narrowly defined goals for the downtown shopping and government district. "[59] At 3 p.m., the protest was over. 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