From May 2 to May 5, 1963, thousands of children left their schools in Birmingham, Alabama, to march for civil rights. Police officers responded by using water cannons and dogs to attack and then arrest the children.
Children take it to the streets.
At its crux, the strategy consisted of recruiting black high school students who were popular in their high schools, quarterbacks, and cheerleaders. These students would then influence their classmates to attend meetings in black churches in Birmingham.
For most of these students, it was their first interaction with the non-violent Civil Rights movement. They also didn’t risk any salary cuts by being in the protests, contrary to the adults, which meant there were no economic drawbacks for the black community.
Black children knew what segregation and separation were, but they couldn’t fathom the extent of inequality between whites and blacks in America. In those meetings, students would discover how it wasn’t normal for students to use hand-me-down books and football gear or have one single typewriter in their school.
On the 2nd of May 1963, more than a thousand students skipped school to attend a 16th Street Baptist Church protest.
1963 Children’s Crusade Commemoration
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Early in 1963, Civil Rights leaders in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and other civil rights groups developed a plan to desegregate Birmingham, a city notorious for its discriminatory practices in employment and public life. The goal of the plan was to use tactics of non-violent protest to provoke Birmingham civic and business leaders to agree to desegregate. The demonstrations started in April 1963 as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Reverend Ralph Abernathy, and local leader Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth led thousands of African-American protesters in Birmingham.
As the campaign continued that month, SCLC leader James Bevel started to enact plans for a “Children’s Crusade” that he and other leaders believed might help turn the tide in Birmingham. Thousands of children were trained in the tactics of non-violence. On May 2nd, they left the 16th Street Baptist Church and St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in groups, heading throughout the city to protest segregation peacefully. One of their goals was to talk to the mayor of Birmingham about segregation in their city. They were not met with a peaceful response.
On the first day of the protest, hundreds of children were arrested. By the second day, Commissioner of Public Safety Bull O’Connor ordered police to spray the children with powerful water hoses, hit them with batons, and threaten them with police dogs. Despite this harsh treatment, children continued to volunteer to participate in the demonstrations over the next few days. Footage and photographs of the violent crackdown in Birmingham circulated throughout the nation and the world, causing an outcry. The Children’s Crusade marked a significant victory in Birmingham.
The city was in the world spotlight, and local officials knew that they could no longer ignore the Civil Rights Movement. Despite this violent reaction to the movement for equality and justice, everyday people in Birmingham continued their efforts. And thousands of children, some of them as young as 7 or 8 years old, had kept the momentum of the struggle going in its most pivotal hour.
Children’s Crusade March In Alabama Began On This Day In 1963
D.L. Chandler is a veteran of the Washington D.C. Metro writing scene, working as a journalist, reporter and culture critic. Getting his start in the late 1990s in print, D.L. joined the growing field of online reporting in 1998. His first big break came with the now-defunct Politically Black in 1999, the nation's first Black political news portal. D.L. has worked in the past for OkayPlayer, MTV News, Metro Connection and several other publications and magazines. D.L., a native Washingtonian, resides in the Greater Washington area.
One of the most-stirring moments in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s occurred on this day in Birmingham, Ala. More than 1,000 students took to the streets to protest the segregation and racism present in the town by way of the Children’s Crusade, resulting in police chief Bull Connor unleashing dogs and fire hose attacks on the children.
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Rev. James Bevel organized the march under leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the planned march was controversial because of the enlisting of minors. Bevel and King were hoping to drum up wider support for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which seemed to be losing momentum in Birmingham. Bevel decided that using students was less of a risk because — unlike most adults — the children had less to lose.
It was reported that the then-Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X balked at the protest because of the risk to the students. King, himself, was also reportedly reluctant about the idea, but ultimately gave the project a green light. From there, the SCLC began canvassing and training students on the proper protocols of nonviolent protests.
The 1,000 African-American students walked out of their classrooms on May 2 and gathered at Sixth Street Baptist Church to proceed with their march. Police headed off the marchers and then arrested hundreds off them for truancy and public disturbance.
The next day, more students returned in protest, leading Connor to charge his officers and the fire department to use deadly force on the unarmed students.
Children's Crusade March of 1963
Photographs of the students being beaten, attacked by police dogs, and blasted with water made its way around the world and sparked anger.
Later that day, Dr. King addressed the parents of the children who were arrested and beaten. In a speech delivered at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, King rallied parents around their children and applauded their bravery.
“Don’t worry about your children they are going to be alright. Don’t hold them back if they want to go to jail, for they are not only doing a job for themselves, but for all of America and for all of mankind,” King said.
The Justice Department later got involved, urging the SCLC to end the protests and return the children to classrooms. The SCLC and local officials came to terms on May 10th, after the city said it would desegregate stores in the downtown area and release all the jailed protestors on the condition that the SCLC end their boycotts and unrest.
The Crusade may have had its critics, but without the images of violence from Connor’s forces spreading worldwide, the movement could have stalled greatly. President John F. Kennedy, appalled by the actions of Connor and similar acts, would be moved to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a result of what occurred that day.
The 51st anniversary of the Children’s Crusade will be recognized today in New York in a unique ceremony. Two women who marched in Birmingham will publicly thank the New York City Fire Officers Association, which released a resolution in 1963 criticizing the use of hoses by the Birmingham Fire Department.
Birmingham Campaign of 1963Demonstrators Attacked The climax of the modern civil rights movement occurred in Birmingham. The city's violent response to the spring 1963 demonstrations against white supremacy forced the federal government to intervene on behalf of race reform. City Commissioner T. Eugene "Bull" Connor's use of police dogs and fire hoses against nonviolent black activists, led by Fred L. Shuttlesworth, Ralph Abernathy, and Martin Luther King Jr., enraged the nation. The public outcry provoked Pres. John F. Kennedy to propose civil rights legislation that became the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act opened America's social, economic, and political system to African Americans and other minorities, including women, the disabled, and gays and lesbians. The legislation addressed the principal goal of the movement of gaining access to the system as consumers but also set in motion strategies to gain equality through affirmative action policies. Shuttlesworth Home Bombed Having witnessed the organization of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Shuttlesworth organized his own group, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), in June 1956 after the state outlawed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In December 1956, when the federal courts ordered the desegregation of Montgomery's buses, Shuttlesworth asked the officials of Birmingham's transit system to end segregated seating, setting a December 26 deadline. He intended to challenge the laws on a bus on that day, but on the night of December 25, Klansmen bombed Bethel Baptist Church and parsonage, nearly assassinating Shuttlesworth. He emerged out of the rubble of his dynamited house and led a protest the next morning that resulted in a legal case against the city's segregation ordinance. Coinciding with school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas, Shuttlesworth arranged a challenge to Birmingham's all-white Phillips High School in September 1957, nearly suffering death at the hands of an angry mob. Segregationist vigilantes again greeted Shuttlesworth when he desegregated the train station. In 1958, Shuttlesworth organized a boycott of Birmingham's buses in support of the ACMHR legal case against segregated seating. Shuttlesworth's aggressive strategy of direct action alienated him from Birmingham's established black leadership. Many people in the black middle class found as too extreme the intense religious belief held by ACMHR members that God was going to end segregation. Freedom Riders Prompted by the national sit-in movement begun by four black college men in Greensboro, North Carolina, in February 1960, a group of black students in Birmingham from Miles College and Daniel Payne College held a prayer vigil. Shuttlesworth and the ACMHR supported their efforts. When a national group of black and white demonstrators undertook the Freedom Rides in May 1961, Shuttlesworth and the ACMHR provided assistance, rescuing the stranded protesters outside Anniston as well as those who suffered a Klan attack at the Birmingham Trailways Station. In spring 1962, Birmingham's black college students initiated the Selective Buying Campaign and, with support from Shuttlesworth and ACMHR, it became the catalyst for the spring 1963 demonstrations. "Bull" Connor in 1963 Leaders from the ACMHR met with SCLC officials to plan strategy. Having learned from prior mistakes, King's lieutenant, the Reverend Wyatt Tee Walker, proposed a limited campaign of sit-ins and pickets designed to pressure merchants and local business leaders into demanding the city commission repeal the municipal segregation ordinances. Some scholars have argued that the strategy called for violent confrontations with Bull Connor leading to mass arrests that would force the Kennedy Administration to intervene on behalf of civil rights, but this was not the case. The tactic of filling the jail had failed to alter race relations in Albany, and the noncommittal Kennedy Administration had yet to offer support for the movement and in fact had aided the segregationists. Indeed, the best ACMHR-SCLC could hope to achieve was some modicum of change in local race relations that might point the way toward regional reform of the South's segregated social structure. Police Dog Attack The joint ACMHR-SCLC Birmingham campaign began quietly with sit-ins on April 3, 1963, at several downtown "whites-only" lunch counters. From the outset, the campaign confronted an apathetic black community, an openly hostile established black leadership, and Bull Connor's "nonviolent resistance" in the form of polite arrests of the offenders of the city's segregation ordinances. With no sensational news, the national media found nothing to report, and the campaign floundered. But when Connor ordered out police dogs to disperse a crowd of black bystanders, journalists recorded the attack of a German shepherd on a nonviolent protester, thereby revealing the brutality that underpinned segregation. The episode convinced Walker and King to use direct-action tactics to generate creative tension for the sake of media coverage. The ease with which the campaign changed directions reflected the fluidity of the movement. Shuttlesworth led the first of many protest marches on City Hall to emphasize the refusal of the city commission to issue parade permits to the protestors. Good Friday March As the number of demonstrations increased, police arrested more ACMHR members, consequently draining the financial resources of the campaign. Black bystanders gave the campaign the appearance of mass support, but the vast majority of Birmingham's black residents remained uninvolved. A more serious threat came from established black leaders who opposed the civil rights campaign and actively worked to undermine Shuttlesworth by negotiating with the white power structure. Although King's decision to seek arrest marked a turning point in his life as a leader, it did little to increase support for the faltering ACMHR-SCLC campaign. From behind bars, he penned the "Letter From Birmingham Jail," which became the clearest statement on the righteousness of civil rights protest. But after a month of exhaustive demonstrations, the stalemate with white authorities suggested another Albany and the looming defeat of the Birmingham Campaign. Fire Hoses Used on Birmingham Demonstrators In a desperate bid to generate media coverage and to keep the campaign alive, King's lieutenants launched the Children's Crusade on May 2, 1963, in which black youth from area schools served as demonstrators. Trying to avoid the use of force, Bull Connor arrested hundreds of school children and hauled them off to jail on school buses. When the jails were filled, he called out fire hoses and police dogs to contain large protests in the black business district along the city's Kelly Ingram Park. African American spectators responded with outrage, pelting police with bricks and bottles as firemen opened up the hoses on not just the nonviolent youngsters but also on enraged black bystanders who had nearly begun a riot. The media captured the negative images of Connor and his men suppressing the nonviolent protest of school children with brutal blasts from water cannons and attacks from police dogs. Front-page photographs in the nation's newspapers convinced Kennedy to send Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Burke Marshall to Birmingham to secure negotiations that would end the violent demonstrations. Previous federal policy regarding civil rights issues had left enforcement to local law and order officials without direct intervention by the national government. At first, Marshall succeeded in fashioning a similar resolution by convincing King to call off the protests without winning any real concessions from the local white power structure. Shuttlesworth held out for more concrete results, and his opposition led to a re-evaluation of the terms for an ultimate truce that announced limited local race reforms. Race Reform Settlement Reached The national media attention helped to spread the fervor of the ACMHR-SCLC Birmingham Campaign well beyond the city's borders, and national demonstrations, international pressure, and inner city riots followed in the wake of the agreement. These actions convinced a reluctant Kennedy administration to propose sweeping reforms that Congress ultimately passed as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. With this legislation, the civil rights movement achieved its goals of gaining access to public accommodations and equal employment opportunities, thereby ending acquiescence to white supremacy and opening the system to African Americans and other minorities. In hindsight the moderate success of inclusion only expanded access and did not alter or challenge the class structure, thus leaving movement members with a wistful sense for the need for economic justice. In the years that followed, white resistance exaggerated the significance of the limited racial inclusion.
Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing White vigilantes attempted to scuttle the race reforms by bombing sites related to the civil rights struggle. When court-ordered school desegregation arrived in the city in September 1963, Klansmen bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four black girls. Only with the implementation of the Civil Rights Act, adopted the next year, did the city completely desegregate, and then only following the U. S. Supreme Court's ruling in the Heart of Atlanta Motel v. the United States case, which also involved Birmingham's Ollie's Barbecue. When Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 many African Americans in Birmingham won the right to vote for the first time, foreshadowing a sea change in local politics. Although members of the black middle class and working class enjoyed access to the system, many African Americans remained shut out, having gained little from the reforms won in Birmingham. Nevertheless, the appointment of Arthur Shores to the city council in 1968 and the election of Richard Arrington as mayor in 1979 represented the strength of the growing black electorate and the success of black political empowerment that grew directly out of the Birmingham campaign.
Bass, S. Jonathan. Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the "Letter from Birmingham Jail." Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001.
Civil rights march in Birmingham. Hitler's "secrets" being revealed.
THE DETROIT NEWS, Detroit, Michigan, May 6, 1963 The front page of this issue has a two line, two column headline "Peaceful March Spurs Negroes" which was reporting on this "Children's Crusade" which began on May 2nd. After over 1,400 arrest in the previous four days, this day (Sunday) was a day for singing, chanting and praying, with the only arrest being of a couple inside the church -- as no white people would be allowed in the church.
Also on the front page is a large photo of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun with an article "Found Hitler's Body in ཀྵ. Reds Say in War 'Secrets'". "The Russians found and identified Adolf Hitler's charred body in the burned ruins of the Fuehrer's Berlin bunker 18 years ago, author Cornelius Ryan says. The Russians disposed of the body, Ryan said, but he refused to say where or how. That he commented yesterday, 'I'm saving for my book.'. "
Additional articles, sports and advertisements of the day are within.
This is complete in 40 pages, several small binding holes along the left spine which does affect some text but not the described articles, has library stamps in the masthead area, otherwise is in good condition.
Source (Wikipedia): The Children's Crusade was the name bestowed upon a march by hundreds of school students in Birmingham, Alabama, on May 2, May 3, May 4, and May 5, 1963, during the American Civil Rights Movement's Birmingham Campaign. Initiated and organized by Rev. James Bevel, the purpose of the march was to walk downtown to talk to the mayor about segregation in their city. Many children left their schools in order to be arrested, set free, and then to get arrested again the next day. The marches were stopped due to the head of police "Bull Connor" who brought fire hoses to ward off the children and set police dogs after the children.
Malcolm X was opposed to the event because he thought it might expose the children to violence. He said, "Real men don't put their children on the firing line.&rdquo
A pivotal civil rights campaign was fought in Birmingham, the most segregated city in the US. Fire hoses and dogs were used to prevent them from meeting the Mayor. The students remained non violent. This is a cause of the 1964 Civil Right Act.
The Birmingham Children’s Crusade of 1963 (children attacked by police)
Children’s Crusade of 1963 (TV-14 04:12) From May 2 to May 5, 1963, thousands of children left their schools in Birmingham, Alabama, to march for civil rights. Police officers responded by using water cannons and dogs to attack and then arrest the children.
Our Black History coverage continues with a look at the Children’s Crusade of 1963, a pivotal event of the Civil Rights Movement, which opened the eyes of the nation through the courageous activism of its youngest citizens.
“We were told in some of the mass meetings that the day would come when we could really do something about all of these inequities that we were experiencing. And we were calling it D-Day. That was May 2, 1963,” remembers Janice Kelsey. Kelsey was one of thousands of young people who participated in a series of non-violent demonstrations known as the Children’s Crusade in Birmingham, Alabama, during the first week of May 1963. For many African-American children in Birmingham, the Civil Rights Movement was already part of their lives. They had witnessed their parents involvement through mass meetings organized at churches like the 16th Street Baptist Church. While many parents and Civil Rights leaders were cautious about involving young people in the protests, it turned out that the brave actions of these children helped make lasting change in Birmingham at a key turning point in the movement.
Children’s Crusade race riots at Kelly Ingram Park. (Getty)
Early in 1963, Civil Rights leaders in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and other civil rights groups developed a plan to desegregate Birmingham, a city notorious for its discriminatory practices in employment and public life. Segregation persisted throughout the city and blacks were allowed to go to many places like the fairgrounds only on “colored days.” The goal of the plan was to use tactics of non-violent protest to provoke Birmingham civic and business leaders to agree to desegregate. The demonstrations started in April 1963 as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,Reverend Ralph Abernathy, and local leader Reverend Fred Shuttlesworthled thousands of African-American protestors in Birmingham. The first phase of the campaign resulted in many arrests, including Dr. King who penned his powerful “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” on April 16th. A circuit court judge had issued an injunction against protest, picketing, demonstrating and boycotting, providing the legal grounds for mass arrests.
As the campaign continued that month, SCLC leader James Bevel started to enact plans for a “Children’s Crusade” that he and other leaders believed might help turn the tide in Birmingham. Thousands of children were trained in the tactics of non-violence. On May 2nd, they left the 16th Street Baptist Church in groups, heading throughout the city to protest segregation peacefully. One of their goals was to talk to the mayor of Birmingham about segregation in their city. They were not met with a peaceful response. On the first day of the protest, hundreds of children were arrested. By the second day, Commissioner of Public Safety Bull O’Connor ordered police to spray the children with powerful water hoses, hit them with batons, and threaten them with police dogs.
Girls between the ages of 14-17 sit in a detention center in Birmingham, Alabama. (Getty)
Despite this harsh treatment, children continued to volunteer to participate in the demonstrations over the next few days. Footage and photographs of the violent crackdown in Birmingham circulated throughout the nation and the world, causing an outcry. Businesses in downtown Birmingham were feeling the pressure. On May 5th, protestors marched to the city jail where many of the young people were still being held. They sang protest songs and continued their tactics of non-violent demonstration. Finally, local officials had agreed to meet with civil rights leaders and hash out a plan to end the protests. On May 10th, an agreement had been reached. City leaders agreed to desegregate business and to free all who had been jailed during the demonstrations. Weeks later, the Birmingham board of education announced that all students who had been involved in the Children’s Crusade would be expelled. This decision was ultimately overturned by the court of appeals.
The Children’s Crusade marked a significant victory in Birmingham. The city was in the world spotlight, and local officials knew that they could no longer ignore the Civil Rights Movement. Yet the struggle for equality in Birmingham continued. Later that year, in September 1963, four little girls were killed by bombs planted by white supremacists at the 16th St. Baptist Church, and over 20 more were injured. The horrific bombings sent shock waves through the nation. Despite this violent reaction to the movement for equality and justice, everyday people in Birmingham continued their efforts. And thousands of children, some of them as young as 7 or 8 years old, had kept the momentum of the struggle going in its most pivotal hour.
The Making of a Child Crusader
Melvin Todd details the indignities of growing up “Colored” in Birmingham in the 1950s and s. At 16, he left school one day to join the Children’s Crusade and was disappointed not to be “jailed for our freedom.”
When I look back over the years of my life, I can recount so many experiences that primed me to become one of the children crusaders for the Civil Rights Movement. I am sure that my experiences were the same as thousands of other African American children, growing up in Birmingham, Alabama during the 1950s and 60s.
As I recollect and assemble my memories, I see them as a montage of snippets from various movies. These real life snippets were the events that helped make my contemporaries, and me, willing to risk personal injury, and jail, to bring about changes for a better life for our people.
If I were to make a movie draft of my life, it would include a sound track. That sound track would be of the music that was popular for that time and place. It would be music that inspired us to fight for our rights.
We start this movie in the late 1940s and the 1950s. We were called Colored people then. I therefore will use that term here.
Late 1940s & 50s (“Tuxedo Junction” by Erskine Hawkins)
Right back where I belong
Way down south in Birmingham
There’s an old place where people go
I was born and raised in a community of Birmingham, Alabama called Ensley/Tuxedo Junction.
Birmingham, Alabama was labeled the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. It was the model of Jim Crow America. It was designed by the White Ruling Class to instill a sense of inferiority and servitude in the Colored citizens. It was also used to make the ignorant White Working Class people feel that they were special and superior to any and all Colored people.
My daddy was a steelworker at the Tennessee Coal & Iron Company (TCI). The Colored workers at TCI could only work at the common labor jobs…those that were the most dangerous and required heavy lifting. The White steelworkers had locker rooms with showers. The Colored steelworkers had only lockers. They could not clean themselves of the dirt and sweat from working with molten steel. Many had to go home in the sweaty, stinky cloths that they had worked in. Many Whites would often complain that they did not want to ride, stand or sit next to Colored people because they stunk.
Hospitals in the city had wards designated as White Only and Colored Only. The White Only wards were always located on the upper floors of the hospitals and the Colored wards were often located on the ground floors, close to where the hospital utilities were located and the garbage was stored. The Colored wards were always located in places that were prone to the easy spread of disease.
Even the cemeteries of the city were segregated. Cemeteries for Whites were serene and beautiful places. The colored cemeteries were usually unlandscaped and poorly maintained. Even if a Colored person had money, they could not be buried in a White cemetery because it was illegal.
The White neighborhoods had paved streets with streetlights and sanitary sewers. My neighborhood streets were unpaved. They were often covered with gravel or slag from the area steel plants. This was done to keep down mud and dust. The sewers in my neighborhood were just open, mosquito laden ditches. Since we had no proper sewer system, whenever there were heavy rains, our streets would flood. Some of my earliest memories are of floodwaters raising into our home and my momma and daddy placing me and my little sister atop of furniture, to keep us from getting wet.
The city transit buses were of course, segregated. Colored people were restricted to ride in the rear of the bus. The rear of the bus was where the heat and noise of the engine was most pronounced. Colored people had to pay their fare to the bus driver, then walk outside and enter through the rear door of the bus. Many times, the bus driver would take off before some of the Colored passengers could make it to the rear door.
The city sanitation department would not allow Colored men to drive or even sit in the cab of the garbage truck. The driver jobs were reserved for Whites only. The Colored workers had the hard jobs of picking up and dumping trash and garbage into the rear compactor of the garbage truck. The Colored workers always rode on the platforms at the rear of the truck.
Milk and bread delivery truck drivers were always White. They often had Colored helpers that carried the milk or bread into the store. The Colored helpers usually had to ride with the product.
At gasoline service stations, Colored men would often fill up your car with gas, but they could not accept payment from you. They would usually call the White station attendant over to receive the payment. Whites often claimed that Colored people were thieves or dumb, and you could not trust them to handle money.
There were no Colored store clerks or sales people. Those type jobs were reserved for Whites only. The only jobs that Colored people had were the ones that required hard, hard work, usually in extreme temperature, and in unpleasant conditions.
The Alabama State Fair was usually held during the last two weeks of August. The Whites attended the first week of the fair. The Coloreds could only attend during the last few days before the fair ended. This usually coincided with the end of the Dog Days of Summer. Many of the Colored folks believed that there was negative symbolism in the fact that they were only allowed to attend at the end of Dog Days.
The Chamber of Commerce of Ensley held its Christmas parade annually. This was a major event for the entire community. There were no Colored participants in the parade with the exception of the marching band from the Colored high school: Western Olin High. The two White high school bands, Ensley High and Minor High, led the parade, and poor Western Olin was always placed at the end of the parade…right in front of the fire engine that carried Santa Claus. Santa always seemed to throw his candy so that the White children could catch a piece in midair. Whenever he got near a group of Colored children, his aim was off. He seemed to always miss them and the candy would land at the curb (the gutter). Oftentimes some of the Colored children would get down on their hands and knees, and tussle with each other for a piece of hard candy. Momma and daddy would never allow my sisters or me take candy that had touched the ground. They would not allow us to lose our dignity by groveling for candy.
Alabama born and bred singer Nat King Cole appeared on a national network television. Our neighbors spread the word by shouting up and down the street: “Turn on Channel 13…A Colored Man is on.” When people got settled in front of their televisions to watch, rolling horizontal lines appeared on the screen, and the local TV affiliate cut the sound and popped a cartoon graphic of a bucktooth rabbit on the screen. The rabbit was shown chewing on a wire. The caption under the rabbit says “Trouble on the cable.” This usually happened whenever a Colored person was on television.
Fast Forward to 1962
(“People Get Ready” – Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions)
To hear the diesels humming
With a newfound pride, we started calling ourselves Negroes. We got our first Negro mailman. We were so very proud of him. To us he was like a celebrity. We treated him as such. People in my neighborhood would offer him a seat on their front porches, and ice water or lemonade, as he went about his route.
Negroes in Birmingham started a boycott of the stores in downtown Birmingham, demanding jobs and courteous treatment. Students from Miles College demonstrated in front of department stores. Rumors spread throughout Birmingham that the Miles students saw some Negroes leaving Loveman’s and Pizitz Department stores with packages. It was claimed that the students confronted Negro customers coming out of these stores. That they took the purchased merchandise and threw it back into the stores. These rumors scared the Negroes that were prone to shop in spite of the called boycott. As a result, there was one day that not a single Negro shopped in any downtown stores. The merchants that had been reluctant to even talk about jobs and courteous treatment then sat down and negotiated with the leaders of the Birmingham Movement.
In the Collegeville community, Bethel Baptist Church and the home of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth were bombed. No one was hurt. As the preachers in local churches often told their congregations: “If you have faith, and do what is right, the Lord will put his arms of protection around you.”
In the Smithfield community, Attorney Arthur Shores’ home was bombed. The blast was so powerful, that it shook the home of my grandfather, Houston Todd, that live several blocks away. No one was hurt. “If you have faith, and do what is right, the Lord will put his arms of protection around you.”
The parsonage of Rev. A.D. King (brother of Martin Luther King, Jr.) was bombed in the Ensley community. No one was hurt. “If you have faith, and do what is right, the Lord will put his arms of protection around you.”
A bomb was exploded on Center Street in Smithfield community. It was designed to draw people out of their homes. Ten minutes later, a second bomb exploded. This bomb contained shrapnel. It was designed to maim and kill. No one was hurt. “If you have faith, and do what is right, the Lord will put his arms of protection around you.”
A bomb was found in the incinerator of Western Olin High School. The bomb malfunctioned and did not go off. Again, “If you have faith, and do what is right, the Lord will put his arms of protection around you.”
The Children’s Crusade begins—School children were taught about non-violent direct action by staff of SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (a.k.a. NAACP). Mass Meetings were held at Negro churches throughout the city. These meetings were basically worship services, where the Holy Scripture was used to teach nonviolent direct action. Communication to the masses of students and adults was done by mimeograph sheets, hand printed fliers, and the announcements from the Negro disc jockeys broadcasting on the two Negro-owned radio stations.
My high school principal, Professor P. D. Jackson, was a man that we students feared. At the same time we also loved and respected him. His word was the law at Western Olin High School. He ran a “tight ship.” He always demanded the best from both students and faculty. Professor Jackson called a special assembly of the student body, because he had heard that students from all over Birmingham would be gathering in downtown Birmingham to demonstrate for civil rights. During the assembly, Professor Jackson warned us not to leave school for the demonstrations. One student, Bobby McDaniel defied Professor Jackson. Bobby stood up and walked out of the assembly. A few other students followed his lead. This was the first time that anyone had ever disobeyed Professor Jackson. The rest of us students were then herded back into class by our teachers. Once back in class, some of the students opened the classroom windows and jumped out, to go and join the demonstrations. The teachers tried to maintain order in their classrooms but were unsuccessful. Professor Jackson then capitulated, and allowed the teachers to let their student leave school.
I and several of my friends then walked the six miles from Western Olin High School to the Kelly Ingram Park in downtown Birmingham. On the way, we met up with students from the other Negro high schools (Ullman, Hayes, Carver, Wenonah, Westfield and Fairfield Industrial) and some elementary schools. We arrived to join the demonstrations a bit late and were eager to express ourselves. If it was necessary to get arrested, we were willing to do so. In our young world of peer-to-peer pressure, to be “jailed for freedom” was considered a badge of courage, valor and honor. By the time we got to downtown to demonstrate, the jails were full of school children and some adults. The police then brought in school buses to take the overflow of children demonstrators to the Alabama State Fairgrounds. There were not enough school buses or paddy wagons available to take my schoolmates and me to the Fairgrounds. We were left standing on the street. Since my schoolmates and I wanted to get arrested and go to jail for our freedom, we decided that we would walk the four miles to the Fairgrounds. Our plan was to tell the police guards there that we were part of the demonstrations. Once we arrived, we found that the doors to the enclosed area under the grandstands were not locked, and that there were no policemen or guards present. The police department had been overwhelmed by the size of the demonstrations and there were no policemen available to act as guards. Many of the students that had been jailed under the grandstands simply walked out and went home. Since I was disappointed that I could not legitimately claim that I had gone to jail for my freedom, I decided to go home. I left the schoolmates that had accompanied me and walked the two miles to my home in Ensley. I had dinner as usual with my little sister and parents. After dinner, we turned on the evening news to see what had happened in downtown Birmingham that day. I was elated to see video of many of my friends and schoolmates on national television, braving fire hoses and police dogs. I was disappointed that I had not been fortunate enough to have been arrested and gone to jail with them. I did not tell Momma or Daddy that I had been part of the demonstrations. They did not ask me if I had been involved. I think that they kind of knew that I had been.
September 15, 1963
The KKK [Ku Klux Klan] bombs the 16 th Street Baptist Church. They kill Addie Mae Collins—14, Cynthia Wesley—14, Carol Robinson—14 and Denise McNair—11. Also killed that day were Virgil Ware—13 and Johnny Robinson—16. Virgil was shot while riding his bicycle by a carload of White teenagers. Johnny was shot by Birmingham Police officers. Our faith was tested. We wondered if the Lord was still there protecting us.
July 2, 1964
As a result of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade, President Lyndon Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This landmark piece of civil rights legislation outlawed major forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities, and women. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public. Lyndon Baines Johnson…a southern White man, recited a line from the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement: “and we shall overcome.” Our faith may have briefly faltered, but now it was fully renewed.
Hidden Herstory: The Leesburg Stockade Girls© Danny Lyon/Magnum Photos
I never fully realized the monumental role that massive numbers of children played in civil rights protests. Law enforcement arrested and jailed children by the thousands for days, and sometimes months, and their involvement helped to enable one of the greatest legal and social assaults on racism in the 20th century—the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Leesburg Stockade Girls are an incredible example of these courageous, young freedom fighters.
You may ask, “Who were the Leesburg Stockade Girls?” In July of 1963 in Americus, Georgia, fifteen girls were jailed for challenging segregation laws. Ages 12 to 15, these girls had marched from Friendship Baptist Church to the Martin Theater on Forsyth Street. Instead of forming a line to enter from the back alley as was customary, the marchers attempted to purchase tickets at the front entrance. Law enforcement soon arrived and viciously attacked and arrested the girls. Never formally charged, they were jailed in squalid conditions for forty-five days in the Leesburg Stockade, a Civil War era structure situated in the back woods of Leesburg, Georgia. Only twenty miles away, parents had no knowledge of where authorities were holding their children. Nor were parents aware of their inhumane treatment.
A month into their confinement, Danny Lyon, a twenty-one year old photographer for the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), learned of the girls’ whereabouts and sneaked onto the stockade grounds to take pictures of the girls through barred windows. After SNCC published the photos in its newspaper The Student Voice, African American newspapers across the country printed the story, and the girls’ ordeal soon gained national attention.
Leesburg, Georgia. Arrested for Demonstrating in Americus, Teenage Girls Are Kept in a Stockade in the Countryside, © Danny Lyon/Magnum Photos, Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
On August 28, 1963, as Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC, these children sat in their cell bolstering their courage with freedom songs in solidarity with the thousands of marchers listening to Dr. King’s indelible speech on the National Mall. Soon after the March on Washington, during the same week of the bombing of the five little girls at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963, law enforcement released the Leesburg Stockade Girls and returned them to their families.
Their story was part of the broader Civil Rights effort that engaged children in a variety of nonviolent, direct actions. In Alabama, for example, thousands of youth participated in the 1963 Children’s Crusade, a controversial liberation tactic initiated by James Bevel of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After careful deliberation about the merit of involving children in street protests and allowing them to be jailed, Dr. King decided that their participation would revive the waning desegregation campaign and would appeal to the moral conscience of the nation.
On May 2, 1963, in response to an invitation from Dr. King, roughly a thousand students—elementary through high school—gathered enthusiastically at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and joined a civil rights march throughout the streets of Birmingham. By day’s end, law enforcement had jailed over 600 children.
Alabama Fire Department Aims High-Pressure Water Hoses at Civil Rights Demonstrators, © Charles Moore, Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The next day the number of children doubled. However, the training classes provided by SCLC leaders could not have prepared the children for the violence they would encounter. The Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene “Bull” Connor directed the use of fire hoses and attack dogs on the children, and people in America and around the world witnessed this brutality. Authorities arrested nearly 2,000 children—one as young as four years old. These protests continued throughout the first week of May, with over 5,000 children being jailed.
Within days, SCLC and local officials reached an agreement, in which the city agreed to repeal the segregation ordinance and release all jailed protestors. Ultimately, the activism of thousands of African American children in 1963, including the Leesburg Stockade Girls, provided the momentum for the March on Washington and contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act the following year.
The history of children’s Civil Rights activism continues to be important to tell. The Leesburg Stockade Girls realize this importance, and they are documenting their story. In 2015, as the keynote speaker at a commemorative event for the Leesburg Stockade Girls at Georgia Southwestern State University, I engaged with ten of the surviving women, who shared recollections about the day of their arrest. Remarkably, these women still possess a collective spirit of resistance to social injustice, and they are beginning to embrace their place in history.
As we reflect on their story and the broader history of youth activism, let us consider: How might children today play an equally significant role in promoting racial equality in the United States?
Written by Tulani Salahu-Din, Museum Specialist, National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Newly-elected Alabama Governor George Wallace takes power on January 14, 1963. In his campaign for office, Wallace is supported by the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizens Council. With few Blacks registered to vote in Alabama, he wins a land-slide victory on a rabid anti-Black, pro-segregation, "states-rights," platform. He takes his oath of office standing on the gold star commenorating the spot where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as President of the Confederacy in 1861 and declares: "I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."
Wallace immediately fires Directory of Public Safety Floyd Mann &mdash a professional lawman who had saved the lives Freedom Riders when they were attacked by the Klan and who had wanted the state Highway Patrol to enforce the law against mob violence. Wallace replaces Mann with "Colonel" Al Lingo, a vicious racist with little law enforcement experience. Under Lingo's command, the Highway Patrol is renamed the State Troopers. It is expanded and transformed into Alabama's armed force for defending segregation and suppressing the Black freedom movement with arrests and brutal violence.
For more information on the Alabama Civil Rights Movement:
Books: Alabama Movement
Web: Alabama Movement
Northwood Theatre &mdash Baltimore (Feb)
February 1963 marks the begining of the 4th year of direct action assaults on segregation since the first Greensboro Sit-in in 1960. Across the South, local campaigns carry on the struggle in communities large and small. These efforts are rarely, if ever, covered by the national media, but taken together they are changing the face of society at the ground level. One typical example is the fight to integrate the Northwood movie theater in Baltimore.
Segregated movie theaters are part of the "southern way of life." In many places there are "white-only" and "colored" cinemas, in other places seating on the main floor is limited to whites, while Blacks are restricted to the "Jim Crow" balcony, often with a separate ticket booth and entrance. While school integration sparks the most intense resistance by segregationists, in many communities their determination to maintain segregation at recreation venues such as theaters, swimming pools, and skating rinks is almost as fierce. White racists are obsessed with inter-racial sex &mdash "miscegenation" &mdash "race-mixing." The idea that Black males might sit next to their white wives, sisters, and daughters in a darkened movie house stirs their deepest phobias in ways that lunch-counter integration does not.
The Northwood theater is adjacent to Morgan State, a Black college in Baltimore. The area around the campus and theater is almost all white, except for the Black campus. For three years the student-led Civic Interest Group (CIG) has demonstrated against the cinema's white-only policy. In mid-February of 1963, they sharply escalate their protests. While half a hundred students picket outside, 25 enter the lobby to purchase tickets. When they are denied admission, they refuse to leave and are arrested for Trespass. Among them is Miss Morgan State and other student leaders. Protests and arrests continue. Within a week, close to 350 students (and a few professors) have been jailed. Bail is set at $600 (equal to $4,500 in 2012), which few can pay.
Morgan student Julia Davidson-Randall recalls:
Students at Howard University in Washington mobilize to support the Morgan State students.
After a week of intense direct action the theater capitulates and ends its white-only policy.
For more information on the Baltimore Civil Rights Movement:
Web: Baltimore & Maryland
Marching For Freedom in Greenwood (Feb-Mar) (Photos)
In late February, an anonymous caller warns that the new office SNCC was finally able to rent is going to be destroyed. Four adjacent Black businesses are burnt in a bungled arson attempt, but they miss the SNCC office. When Sam describes the fire as "arson" at a mass meeting he is arrested for "statements calculated to breach the peace." It is his seventh Movement arrest in Greenwood.
More than one hundred Black protesters show up at City Hall on the day of Sam's trial the first mass protest by Greenwood Blacks in living memory. Sam is sentenced to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine. The Judge offers to suspend the sentence if Sam agrees to leave town and halt efforts to register Black voters. Replies Sam: "Judge, I ain't gonna do that." He is released on bond pending appeal, and that night addresses a mass meeting of 250 people the largest mass meeting to date.
On Tuesday, February 26, more than 200 Blacks line up at the Courthouse to register to vote. They know they will not be allowed to register, but attempting to do so has become for them a symbol of both pride and defiance. And the white power-structure recognizes it as such. The police order them to disperse. They hold their ground, remaining in line. The Registrar delays and evades, admitting only a few to fill out the application and take the so-called "literacy test." Those few who manage to take the test are rejected. But in Leflore County fear is beginning to lose its grip.
That night, KKK nightriders ambush a SNCC car on the road, firing 13 rounds from a .45 caliber machine gun at Jimmy Travis, Bob Moses, and VEP Field Director Randolph Blackwell. Jimmy is hit twice, in the neck and shoulder, and has to be rushed to the nearest hospital willing to treat Black freedom fighters. From around the nation demands for protection and enforcement of federal voting rights laws are sent to Washington. The Kennedy administration takes no noticeable action.
COFO calls on all voter-registration workers in Mississippi to concentrate on Greenwood to show that Klan terror cannot halt a growing freedom movement. By early March, dozens of SNCC organizers, plus some CORE field secretaries and SCLC staff members are working out of the Greenwood SNCC/COFO office in defiance of Klan terror, police repression, and Citizen Council economic retaliation. Whites shoot at a car containing Sam, Wazir, and local students working with the movement. Though he knows full well who is responsible, Greenwood mayor Charles Sampson denies that white racists are the perpetrators. He falsely accuses SNCC of faking the attack to garner support. On March 24th the Klan finally succeeds in fire-bombing the office. It is destroyed. The Movement continues.
The Greene family is particularly active father Dewey Greene takes a leading role in encouraging voter-registration, son George and daughter Freddie are leaders among the local students. On the night of March 26, the Klan shoots into the Greene home, narrowly missing three of the children. The Greenes are a well- respected family in Greenwood's Black community and instead of intimidating people the shooting does just the opposite.
The marchers men, women, and children are singing and praying as they approach City Hall. Suddenly, they are attacked by police dogs and beaten by club-wielding cops. SNCC leaders Bob Moses, Jim Forman, Wazir Peacock, Frank Smith, and six Greenwood activists are arrested. Yale law student Marian Wright Atlanta student sit-in leader and today Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund describes the scene:
The Greenwood Movement is not intimidated by dogs or cops or arrests. Where a year earlier local Blacks feared to be seen in the company of Sam Block or Wazir Peacock, now a thousand or more are involved in the Movement in one way or another &mdash protesting, canvasing, trying to register, attending meetings, housing and feeding organizers, providing bail money, and so on. By 10am the next morning there are 50 Blacks lined up at the courthouse to register, by noon more than 100. A small army of helmeted police confront them. Again they attack with dogs and clubs. SNCC field secretary Charlie Cobb reports:
Photos of police dogs savaging nonviolent protesters and news describing denial of basic voting rights flash across the world, embarrassing the Kennedy administration on the world stage and undercutting his "Free World" diplomacy at the United Nations. Moses and the others arrested on the 27th are convicted of "disorderly conduct" and given the maximum sentence, four months in prison and a $200 fine. Hoping to force the Department of Justice to file suit against the county's interference with the right to vote, they refuse to pay the fine or pay bail while the case is appealed.
But the Department of Justice under Attorney General Robert Kennedy cuts a deal instead. Eager to halt the embarrasing news stories coming out of Greenwood, the Feds agree not to file a voting rights suit against local officials. In return, the Greenwood power-structure agrees to release Moses and the others without bond while their case is appealed, and to stop using police brutality against Blacks trying to register. The county also agrees to resume food distribution so long as it is paid for by the federal government (in other words, the Feds supply not only the food, but also pick up the distribution costs which everywhere else in the nation are carried by the county). This allows Leflore politicians to assure their segregationist supporters that local taxes are not being used to "reward uppity Blacks" with free food.
With the cops no longer attacking Blacks trying to register to vote, embarrassing photos stop coming out of Greenwood, which relieves the Kennedys. But the deal only halts police repression. The KKK continues to threaten Black voters with terrorist violence and the Citizens Council continues to coerce Blacks with economic terror, firing and evicting those who try to register. And without federal voting rights enforcement, the Registrar is free to continue rigging the application and "literacy test" to prevent most Blacks from actually registering. In the following months, 1500 Blacks risk life and economic survival by journeying to the courthouse, but only a handful are added to the voting rolls. By the end of 1963 there are only 268 Black voters in Leflore County compared to 10,000 white voters, even though 65% of the population is Black.
Cambridge MD, Movement &mdash 1963
In late March of 1963, Cambridge demonstrations resume when the movie theater, which had refused to desegregate during the 1962 protests, increases segregation by limiting Blacks to the back rows of the balcony rather than the entire balcony as had been the previous practice. Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC) leaders Gloria Richardson, Enez Grubb, and Sally Garrison, along with Civic Interest Group (CIG) leader Clarence Logan, meet with the Mayor and town council. They demand real school desegregation, equal job opportunities, better housing, and desegregation of recreation venues such as the cinema and skating rink. The white power-structure rebuffs them.
On March 29, some 50 protesters &mdash including supporters from Swarthmore, Maryland State, Morgan State, and other colleges, assemble at Mount Sinai Baptist Church and then march downtown to the theater and skating rink. They are opposed by a jeering mob of whites. Gloria and 16 others are arrested for "Tresspass" and "Disturbing the Peace." CNAC organizes a boycott of the downtown white merchants. Protests, arrests, and harrassment by hostile whites continue through April. By the end of April when demonstrations subside due to lack of bail money, some 80 people have been arrested. Among them are Swarthmore students Judy Richardson and Penny Patch, both of whom go on to become SNCC field secretaries.
When many of those arrested are convicted of "Disorderly Conduct," local judge Laird Henry attempts to calm tensions by sentencing them to pay a fine of just one penny. But the Black protesters are determined to end segregation in Cambridge, and the tiny sentence infuriates pro-segregation whites. In mid-May demonstrations resume when 250 local Blacks stage a night march downtown. Again and again over the following days CNAC tries to desegregate the theater, skating rink, retaurants, and other venues. Again and again white mobs oppose them.
Cambridge students Dwight Cromwell and Dinez White, both 15, lead many of the protests. They are arrested and charged with "Disorderly Conduct" for peacably praying on the sidewalk outside a segregated facility. They are held without bail, and then condemned to indefinite incarceration in the state juvenile prison &mdash a sentence that could keep them in jail for 6 years until they reach 21. Dinez writes a "Letter From a Jail Cell," in which she tells her fellow protesters: "They think they have you scared because they are sending us away. Please fight for freedom and let us know that we are not going away in vain." (She writes this letter before Dr. King's famous Letter From a Birmingham Jail.)
The outrageous jailing of Cromwell and White for the "crime" of praying for an end to segregation further enrages the Black community. The attacks by whites increase, and many Blacks begin turning away from the strict nonviolence of Dr. King. One CNAC leader states: "We are not going to initiate violence. But if we are attacked, we are not going to turn the other cheek." On the night of June 11 &mdash after news reports of the Medgar Evers Assassination &mdash CNAC marches downtown to protest the sentences meted out to Cromwell and White. The are confronted by a mob of whites who follow them back to the 2nd Ward where they throw rocks and provoke fights.
On the 12th there is another march downtown to protest the sentences. Gloria Richardson urges the marchers to remain nonviolent while protesting. Large numbers of Maryland State Troopers are on hand, but they side with the whites. The next day more than 500 again march downtown. Some of them carry weapons to defend themselves from the white mob which is waiting for them. Black men arm themselves and guard the perimeter of the 2nd Ward to protect the community from attack by whites. CNAC remains committed to nonviolence on demonstrations, but does not oppose community self-defense against white violence. On the night of June 14, several white-owned stores in the 2nd Ward are set on fire by persons unknown. Shots are exchanged between whites and Blacks, there are gunshot casualties, and rocks are thrown at the police when they enter the area in force.
When CNAC refuses to accept a one-year moratorium on protests, Governor Tawes sends in the Maryland National Guard and declares Martial Law. Hundreds of guardsmen are deployed on Race Street, with more in reserve. (Race Street is the dividing line between the Black 2nd Ward and the white areas.) CNAC welcomes the National Guard because the local and state police consistently side with the white mob and offer little protection to the Black community from white assaults and fire bombings. Whites resent the Guard presence, calling them an "army of occupation."
The Guard is withdrawn in early July. After more fruitless negotiations, CNAC resumes sit-ins and marches. Again white mobs form to attack the demonstrators. On the 12th, whites attack half a dozen protesters sitting-in at a restaurant, Blacks come to their defense and there is a wild street brawl. Later that evening marchers are assaulted by a white mob, and night riders drive through the 2nd Ward exchanging gunfire with Black defenders. White-owned stores are set on fire. The Baltimore Afro-American writes: " For what seemed like an eternity the Second Ward was a replica of the Old West as men and boys of all ages roamed the streets, stood in the shadows, and leaned out of windows with their weapons in full view. " Twelve white people are wounded by gunfire, but fortunately none are killed.
The National Guard is recalled to Cambridge where they remain for almost a year, the longest martial law deployment in an American community since the end of Reconstruction.
On July 23rd, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy personally convenes a marathon meeting with Gloria Richardson, John Lewis of SNCC, and Cambridge and Maryland officials. After 9 hours of intense negotiation they announce the "Treaty of Cambridge," an agreement that meets most of the original 1962 demands that CNAC presented to the city. In return for a moratorium on protests, the power-structure agrees to establish a biracial committee including CNAC representatives, end segregation in public accomodations, desegregate the schools, construct public housing, and implement an innovative jobs program funded by the federal government. Behind the scenes, intervention by Attorney General Robert Kennedy (RFK) eventually frees Dwight Cromwell and Dinez White after three months in Juvenile prison.
Gloria and other CNAC leaders are wary of RFK's motives and doubt the willingness of Cambridge officials to make good on their promises. But they agree to the "Treaty of Cambridge" because for the first time committments are made &mdash in writing &mdash regarding jobs and housing, the issues of greatest concern to Cambridge Blacks. (In CNAC's door-to-door canvas of the 2nd Ward, 42% of the people name unemployment as the most pressing issue, 26% say housing, and only 6% place desegregation of public accomodations as the top priority.)
The white community in Cambridge is split between the hard-line segregationists &mdash who are mostly poor and working-class backed by the white aristocracy &mdash and the racial "moderates" &mdash who tend to be from the middle-class.
Furious at the "Treaty of Cambridge," segregationists flock to the all-white Dorchester Business & Citizens Association (DBCA) which files a referendum to overturn the desegregation agreement. The DBCA claims it is not a racist organization, but its actions prove to be little different from those of the White Citizen Council. DBCA leaders deny that they are anti-Black, they say they oppose laws against discrimination because they violate property rights &mdash that businessmen have the right to hire whomever they wish, and a right of "free association" to accept or refuse customers without government interference. They refuse to acknowledge that Blacks have a right of equal access to public facilities, housing, and jobs.
Though the DBCA aggressively registers pro-segregation voters, they are outnumbered by the combined vote of the Black community and the white "moderates," so everyone expects the segregation referendum to be defeated. Then Gloria Richardson and CNAC call on the Black community to boycott the referendum because human rights must never be subject to majority vote. A "right" is only a right if it cannot be taken from you even if the majority wish to do so. If the majority can vote to deny basic human rights to a minority, then nobody has any permanent rights at all. By participating in the referendum vote, the Movement would be accepting the principle that the majority can revoke the rights of a minority, which CNAC refuses to do.
Gloria tells a press conference:
The CNAC position divides the Black community and provokes controversy among civil rights organizations, activists, and media nationwide. Black moderates and white liberals, Cambridge Black ministers, and the NAACP, attack Richardson and CNAC. They argue that the ballot box is the American way of democracy, and urge Cambridge Blacks to vote against the referendum. But many activists in SNCC, CORE, and elsewhere, even as far distant as California, support the CNAC position as a matter of principle and also common sense &mdash voting in such a referendum legitimizes the principle that human rights are subject to majority vote and if that becomes accepted, the rights of all minorities &mdash racial, religious, political, cultural &mdash become subject to the voting power of the majority.
When the vote is cast in early October, the pro-segregation referendum passes 53% to 47%. Turnout is extremely high in the white districts, but only 50% in the Black 2nd Ward. Without CNAC's boycott, the referendum would probably have been defeated, but at the cost of accepting the principle that human rights are subject to majority vote. In the end, though, the referendum protects segregation in Cambridge for just 9 months because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 overturns segregation in public accomodations nationwide.
Birmingham &mdash the Children's Crusade (April-May) Photos
[ This section describes the Birmingham Freedom Movement in the Spring of 1963. It does not try to cover the economic, political, electoral, and legal conflicts within the white power-structure between the rabid segregationists led by Eugene "Bull" Connor and the so-called "moderates" led by Birmingham Mayor Albert Boutwell and Chamber of Commerce President Sidney Smyer. Nor does it try to detail the complex and convoluted course of desegregation negotiations and agreements during the period 1962-1964. ]
See Shuttlesworth, ACMHR, and the Birmingham Resistance for preceding events.
See also Birmingham Movement for books.
Two Years On
By the end of 1962, after three years of student-led sit-ins and Freedom Rides, some success has been achieved in desegregating public facilities in some of the college-towns of the mid and upper-south. But across the South as a whole segregation is still the rule rather than the exception, and in the Deep South rigid segregation remains almost universal. And even if a business owner or public official is willing to integrate, states, counties, and cities have laws requiring segregation (see Birmingham Segregation Laws for examples).
While attacking segregation one lunch counter and bus depot at a time has begun to build a powerful movement &mdash and is beginning to raise the issue among the public at large &mdash it is impossible to stage separate direct action campaigns at every single segregated facility in every city, town, and hamlet. Nor is it possible to repeal state and local segregation ordinances one by one, or file separate court cases to overturn them in all the myriad jurisdictions. Only national legislation on the federal level can permanently eradicate overt, legally-required, segregation by repealing all segregation laws at a stroke and making equal access to public facilities a matter of national law enforceable in federal court.
Birmingham The Most Segregated City in America
In 1960, Birmingham's population of 350,000 is split 60-40, white over Black. The adjacent city of Bessemer is majority Black and overwhelmingly poor. Racial segregation of public and commercial facilities throughout Jefferson County is absolute, legally required, and ruthlessly enforced. The dominant political boss is Eugene "Bull" Connor, the Commissioner of Public Safety in charge of the police and fire departments. He is a virulent racist with connections to the Ku Klux Klan, and his police &mdash some of whom are Klansmen themselves &mdash brutally enforce the racial status-quo.
Violence, and the threat of violence, are pervasive. In the six years between 1957 and 1963, Black churches and the homes of Black leaders are bombed 17 times. Jewish synagogues are also bombed. The police make no effort to apprehend the perpetrators, and the city acquires a new nickname &mdash Bombingham. In 1956, singer Nat King Cole is attacked and beaten on the stage of Municipal Auditorium by members of the White Citizens Council. A year later, Klansmen randomly snatch a Black man from the street, castrate, and kill him. Beatings, rapes, vandalism, and other forms of abuse and terrorism enforce white-supremacy.
But there are some who are not intimidated. When the NAACP is banned in Alabama, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth forms the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) which, along with the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), becomes a cornerstone of the newly-formed Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957.
ACMHR sinks deep roots in the Black community of Birmingham-Bessemer, holding a regular mass-meeting every Monday night, month after month, year after year. With undaunted courage, Shuttlesworth and the other ACMHR activists carry forward their fight for freedom from racist oppression. Following the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott, they force integration of Birmingham buses. Shuttlesworth is jailed many times, and his home and church &mdash Bethel Baptist &mdash are bombed. When he tries to enroll his children in a white school, he is brutally beaten with chains.
When ACMHR successfully sues in federal court to desegregate the city parks &mdash Blacks have to pay taxes to support the parks but they are not allowed to use them &mdash Bull Connor orders all parks closed to everyone rather than allow both Blacks and whites to share them together. In May of 1961, with the connivance of Bull Connor's police force, a KKK mob savagely attacks the Freedom Riders when their bus arrives at the Birmingham depot. Shuttlesworth and ACMHR stalwarts courageously rescue and shelter the battered riders. The police arrest Shuttlesworth &mdash twice &mdash but when the Nashville students and SNCC activists arrive to continue the Freedom Ride, Shuttlesworth and ACMHR stand united with them.
After pulling out of Albany GA in August of 1962, Dr. King and other Movement leaders ponder the strengths and weaknesses of the Albany Movement and the lessons learned from that seminal effort in large-scale nonviolent direct action against segregation. Dr. King consults closely with Shuttlesworth who argues that SCLC should join ACMHR in a major campaign against segregation in Birmingham. SCLC Vice-President Reverend Joseph Lowry of Mobile also supports a show-down in "Bombingham." Dr. King then assigns SCLC Executive Director Wyatt T. Walker to prepare a battle plan for Birmingham.
As SNCC Chairman, and SCLC board-member, John Lewis put it:
King, Shuttlesworth, and the SCLC high-command adopts Walker's Project C in December of 1962. The basic strategy is to fill the jails with protesters and boycott Birmingham's white merchants during April's Easter shopping-season (which is second in economic importance only to the Christmas shopping season). Filling the jails will put direct economic pressure on the city which has to feed and guard the prisoners and at the same time strengthen the Black boycott of the downtown businesses and the politically powerful store-owners. The plan calls for commencing direct action in March of 1963 &mdash first with lunch counter sit-ins and then mass marches. The demonstrators are expected to be adults and college students who will commit to staying at least 5 or 6 days in jail before being bailed out.
The SCLC leaders are under no illusions about the dangers ahead. They know that Bull Connor is no Laurie Prichart &mdash it won't be the velvet glove of Albany, but the iron fist of a police-state in Birmingham. And they know that the Klan in "Bombingham" won't hesitate to kill. As Shuttlesworth sums it up: "You have to be prepared to die before you can begin to live. "
The Campaign Begins
In February, Reverend James Lawson and others begin training demonstrators in the tactics and strategies of Nonviolent Resistance. But the Mayoral battle between Boutwell and Connor is extended to an April 2nd run-off vote, forcing a month's delay in the start of Project C.
On the last day of March, Dr. King meets in New York with singer Harry Belafonte and other Northern supporters to raise financial resources for bail money, and organize political support to pressure Kennedy and Congress. During the campaign that follows, Belafonte plays a key role, devoting his full energies to coordinating and mobilizing efforts across the country for the Birmingham Movement and a new civil rights bill.
On April 2nd, SCLC sets up its command post in Room 30 of the Black-owned Gaston Motel across the street from Kelly Ingram Park. Close by is the large 16th Street Baptist Church &mdash capable of seating more than 1500 &mdash which is to be the direct action assembly point. Nightly mass meetings begin to mobilize the community around the campaign, the boycott of downtown merchants is declared, and volunteers trained in the tactics and strategies of Nonviolent Resistance step forward to begin lunch counter sit-ins the following day.
On Wednesday, April 3rd, over the signature of Fred Shuttlesworth and N.H. Smith, ACHMR publicly issues the Birmingham Manifesto setting forth the Black community's demand for an end to the oppression of segregation and their determination to immediately begin a freedom campaign of nonviolent direct action. Some 65 protesters &mdash many of them students from Miles College &mdash target 5 downtown lunch counters. But instead of arresting them, four of the lunch counters simply close &mdash only at the fifth establishment are Connor's police called in to jail the sit-ins. This reflects a deep split within Birmingham's white power-structure. The racial "moderates" want to emulate the Albany strategy of defusing the Movement and preventing harsh national publicity by avoiding arrests and dramatic confrontations. The hard-liners led by Bull Connor with the backing of Alabama Governor George Wallace want to utterly suppress Black aspirations through intimidation, violence, and jailing anyone who dares question the established order.
The split within the power-structure is mirrored within the Black community. Many Black business leaders and conservative ministers fear and oppose direct action. They argue that Boutwell &mdash the newly elected Mayor &mdash should be given time to put his "moderate" policies into effect without being pressured by polarizing demonstrations. Shuttlesworth derides Boutwell as merely a "dignified Connor," and Dr. King argues that only nonviolent direct action has the power to effect significant change against the resistance of both the "moderates" and the extremists.
With the lunch counters closed, the Movement organizes small marches to City Hall and other government buildings. Connor arrests the protesters. At the end of the campaign's first week, the boycott is strong with only a handful of Blacks shopping downtown. Around 150 protesters are in jail, but this is far fewer than Walker's Project C plan had hoped for, and there is little coverage in the national press.
With the support of the Boutwell faction, Connor obtains an injunction from an Alabama state court prohibiting all future demonstrations.
The next day, Thursday, April 11, King, Shuttlesworth, and other Movement leaders denounce the injunction. States Dr. King: "We cannot in good conscience obey such an injunction which is an unjust, undemocratic and unconstitutional misuse of the legal process." They announce that they intend to defy the injunction by marching the next day &mdash Good Friday.
The city issues an order preventing bail bondsmen from bailing out jailed protesters. Knowing that SCLC's bail fund is empty, Governor Wallace enacts a new law &mdash which applies only to Birmingham's Jefferson County &mdash that raises the maximum bail that can be charged for a misdemeanor arrest from $300 to $2,500 (equal to almost $20,000 in 2013). The result is that protesters too poor to pay their own bond may have to stay in jail for 6 months rather than just 6 days before being bailed out. Despite the lack of funds, Dr. King decides to march on Good Friday: "I don't know what will happen. I don't know where the money will come from. I have to make faith act."
On Good Friday, King and Abernathy lead 50 volunteers on a march that defies the injunction. They know they will be arrested and they know there is no money to pay their bail. King and Abernathy are thrown in solitary confinement &mdash no phone calls, no mattress or blankets, just a cold concrete cell and a steel bedframe.
Letter From a Birmingham Jail
Harry Belafonte is able to raise $50,000 in bail money to temporarily meet SCLC's previous obligations &mdash which means that those who have already endured the 6 days in jail they committed to can be bonded out. Belafonte and Walker activate a letter, telegram, and phone call campaign to the Kennedys. But the national press continues to disregard and discount the Birmingham campaign, the New York Times heaps praise on the "moderate" Mayor Boutwell while dismissing the demonstrations as " poorly timed protests ," and the Washington Post speculates that King is " prompted more by leadership rivalry than by the real need of the situation. "
On April 13, the Birmingham News publishes an attack on Dr. King and the Movement by some of the city's liberal white clergymen who are supporters of Boutwell's "moderate" faction. They criticize the protests as "unwise and untimely," and urge Blacks not to participate. They invoke their religious authority against civil disobedience and accuse the nonviolent protesters of inciting hatred and violence.
From his prison cell, Dr. King pens a response in the newspaper margins and on other scraps of paper. Smuggled out of jail in bits and pieces, his rebuttal becomes "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."
He rebukes the liberals, telling them,
For years now I have heard the word 'Wait!' It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.'
And then he lays it on the line,
. the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action" who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.' &mdash Martin Luther King. 
Immediately understanding the importance of Dr. King's statement, Walker labors to get it published &mdash or at least noticed &mdash by the press who are so eager to trumpet every attack of the "moderates." To no avail. The northern mass media utterly ignores King's response. Only after the campaign's ultimate victory does Letter From a Birmingham Jail becomes widely known to the public.
After 8 days in jail, Dr. King and Rev. Abernathy are bailed out on Saturday, April 20th to prepare for their trial on Monday the 22nd. After a week-long trial, a Birmingham court convicts them of violating the injunction. They remain out on bail pending appeal. But the Birmingham Movement is faltering, the boycott is weakening, bail funds are again exhausted, and it is harder and harder to find adults willing to risk losing their jobs by going to jail. Most Blacks in Birmingham and Bessemer are working-poor, barely living from paycheck to paycheck. Parents who have to feed and cloth their children cannot risk being fired and blacklisted.
In response to a request from King, James Bevel and Diane Nash come to Birmingham from Greenwood Mississippi. No one has more experience than they in organizing and leading nonviolent direct action. Along with Dorothy Cotton and Bernard Lee, they focus their organizing on high school students rather than adults. The response is enthusiastic. The nonviolent training sessions for young people soon grow larger than the adult-oriented nightly mass meetings. But Dr. King and the other leaders are reluctant to allow children on the marches &mdash Birmingham jail is no place for kids, and police records will cast shadows over their futures. Bevel and the younger SCLC staff argue that the students are eager to participate, and when they are arrested it will not threaten the economic survival of their families.
The Children's Crusade
With the injunction trial over, King and Shuttlesworth try to re-ignite the faltering movement with a call for a mass march on Thursday, May 2nd &mdash a march patterned on the successful march in Nashville three years earlier. But Birmingham is no Nashville, there was no injunction in Nashville, and no Bull Connor either. And in Nashville, most of the marchers had been students from four large Black colleges, but in Birmingham there is only tiny Miles College.
The debate over allowing children to confront Connor's cops and endure jail roils the movement. But the young freedom fighters are done arguing &mdash they are ready to march and no one is going to stop them. Finally, Dr. King agrees, children who are old enough to join a church are old enough to make witness for justice. (In the tradition of the Black Baptist church, a child in elementary school can join the church by accepting the Christian faith.)
A passion for freedom sweeps through Parker High and the other Black schools of Birmingham and Bessemer, an emotional firestorm ignited by SCLC's young field workers. It's led by class presidents and prom queens, cheerleaders and football heroes like big James Orange. It's a fire stoked and spread by "Tall Paul" White and other DJs at the Black radio stations. Thursday, May 2nd, is "D-Day" as students "ditch" class to march for justice. In disciplined groups of 50, children singing freedom songs march out of 16th Street Baptist church two-by- two. When each group is arrested, another takes its place. There are not enough cops to contain them, and police reinforcements are hurriedly summoned. By the end of the day almost 1,000 kids have been jailed.
That evening, almost 2,000 adults over-flow the nightly mass meeting at Bethel Baptist. As mandated by a court ruling, a pair of white police detectives are able to attend all mass meetings so that they can radio reports back to Connor. They usually sit in the front row and Movement speakers often address them directly as representatives of the repressive power-structure. By confronting them, condemning their actions, and ridiculing them with humor, the speakers use their presence to erode the deeply ingrained traditions of fear and subservience that have held sway for so long.
In family after family, worried parents wrestle with their justifiable fears and the determination of their sons and daughters. Says one boy to his father:
The next day, Friday May 3rd, a thousand more students cut class to assemble at 16th Street church. With the jails already filled to capacity, and the number of marchers growing, Connor decides to suppress the movement with violence. Instead of arresting the first group of marchers he orders his fire department to disperse them with firehoses. But the students hold their ground, singing "Freedom" to the ancient hymn "Amen." Connor orders the water pressure increased to knock them off their feet and wash them away. Still singing, the young protesters sit down on the pavement and hunch their backs against the torrent.
Connor brings up "monitor guns," high-pressure nozzles mounted on tripods and fed by two hoses that are used to fight the worst fires. They're capable of knocking bricks out of a wall at 100 feet. The students are washed tumbling down the street like leaves in a flood. Outraged, the hundreds of Black on-lookers in Kelly Ingram park &mdash including many parents &mdash throw rocks and bottles at the cops and firemen. Meanwhile, more groups of marchers are taking different routes out of 16th Street church, dodging around the firehoses and heading for downtown. The cops scramble to block them, arresting those who reach City Hall or the downtown stores. There is no room in the jails and the overflow prisoners are incarcerated at the county fairgrounds.
To contain and intimidate the demonstrators and the angry crowd, Connor brings up his K9 Corps of eight vicious attack dogs. As John Lewis recalled it later, "We didn't fully comprehend at first what was happening. We were witnessing police violence and brutality Birmingham-style: unfortunately for Bull Connor, so was the rest of the world." Television that night, and newspapers world-wide the next morning, show images of young children marching up to snarling police dogs, cops clubbing women to the ground, and high-pressure hoses sweeping young bodies into the street.
Saturday, May 4th, the student marches continue. Again Connor uses his monitor water-cannons to knock down and contain the young protesters, and again they use guerrilla tactics to evade the police cordon to reach City Hall and the downtown shopping district. Connor knows he cannot use fire hoses or attack dogs against Blacks intermingled with white shoppers, so he has to arrest those who reach the commercial area, straining the capacity of his improvised prisons at the fair grounds. Again angry adults in Kelly Ingram park retaliate by hurling rocks and bottles at the cops and firemen until Bevel and other SCLC workers convince them that their spontaneous violence is undercutting the Movement's effectiveness.
With the downtown stores closed for Sunday, the 5th is to be a day of pause, prayer, and nonviolent training for the next wave. Reinforcements arrive &mdash SNCC Executive Director James Forman just bailed out from being arrested on the William Moore march, SNCC leader Ella Baker, comedian Dick Gregory, and singers Guy & Candy Carawan and Joan Baez. But when the cops bust the Carawans, dragging them off the steps of New Pilgrim church (site of that day's mass meeting), Bevel calls on the congregation &mdash mostly adults in their Sunday best &mdash to march on the jail in protest.
Led by ACMHR stalwart Rev. Charles Billups, and inspired by the courage of the children over the previous days, they catch Connor by surprise and make it five blocks through the Black community before the police and firemen manage to block them just short of the jail. By now the march line has grown to almost 2,000 people, who kneel two-by- two in prayer while Billups stands tall, shouting to Connor: "Turn on your water! Turn loose your dogs! We'll stand here 'til we die!" Connor orders that the firehoses be turned on the line of marchers who are kneeling in prayer, but the firemen hesitate. Wyatt Walker averts a clash by convincing Connor to let the marchers hold a prayer service in a nearby park. To the marchers, it is a surprising taste of victory.
Stung by growing public pressure, and moved by the images coming out of Birmingham, Kennedy sends Justice Department official Burke Marshall to calm the waters. Marshall tries without success to convince King that the demonstrations should be halted. And he finds few whites of influence willing to sit down and negotiate with Blacks.
On Monday, the 6th, under pressure from a white power-structure desperate to avoid new images of savage brutality, Connor agrees to simply arrest anyone who tries to march rather than trying to beat them into submission with clubs, dogs, and firehoses. Led by Dick Gregory, the first group is arrested as they leave 16th Street church, and hour after hour, group after group are taken off to jail &mdash almost 1,000 by day's end (more than 2,600 since D-Day). The jails are full, the improvised fairground prison is full, and many prisoners are now held in an open-air stockade without shelter from the rain. But the downtown shopping district is deserted, the stores empty as Blacks continue to boycott and white shoppers avoid the turmoil of demonstrators and massive police operations. And at the huge mass meeting that night, spread across four different churches, more children &mdash and an increasing number of adults &mdash step forward to march the next day.
On Tuesday the 7th, the Movement escalates its boycott tactics. While Walker and Bevel hold Connor's attention by making themselves visible at 16th Street church apparently organizing more marches, 600 students led by Dorothy Cotton, Isaac Reynolds, Jim Forman, and others sneak downtown in small guerrilla groups. At H-Hour they grab signs hidden in parked cars and set up surprise picket lines all over the main shopping district. As the cops race towards downtown from Kelly Ingram park with sirens wailing, hundreds of young protesters dash out of the church, evade the few remaining cops, and stream downtown to join the others.
Lines of students, now joined by hundreds of adults, weave in and out of stores, dancing to the rhythmic beat of freedom songs. Within the hour, thousands of protesters are picketing, sitting-in, blocking streets, and taunting the cops. The entire central district is gripped by nonviolent pandemonium. The News reports the next day: Sirens Wail, Horns Blow, Negroes Sing . The cops are stumped, the jails and holding pens are full and the budget exhausted, they cannot make more mass arrests, but they cannot shoot up Birmingham's business heart with tear gas, or risk damaging stores and offices with high-pressure fire hoses aimed at quickly dodging demonstrators.
Back at Kelly Ingram park, the fire hoses are turned on new waves of nonviolent marchers coming out of the church. A high-pressure blast from a monitor gun is aimed at Shuttlesworth, smashing him against the brick wall of the church until he collapses. As he is rushed to hospital by ambulance, Bull Connor tells a reporter: "I wish he'd been carried away in a hearse."
By now the major media &mdash which had ignored Birmingham until the children started to march &mdash has almost 200 reporters covering the story. Nationally, and around the globe, newspapers and TV carry descriptions and images of clubs, dogs, fire hoses, children marching for freedom, mass civil-disobediance and the mass jailing of American citizens. Between April 3rd and May 7th, roughly 3,000 protesters are arrested and booked (an unknown number of the very youngest marchers are simply sent home without charges being filed).
Working through Burke Marshall, President Kennedy &mdash the leader of the "free world" &mdash prods Birmingham's power-structure to do something &mdash anything &mdash to end what has become a national disgrace. Finally, reluctantly, on the evening of May 7th, they agree to negotiate with Birmingham's Black community. Deep into the night the talks continue.
To give negotiations a chance, King declares a temporary truce on Wednesday May 8th, suspending the demonstrations &mdash but not the boycott. From his hospital bed and then at the Movement's Gaston Motel headquarters, Shuttlesworth objects to any cessation of direct action pressure, but understanding the importance of unity, he reluctantly agrees to publicly support the truce.
JFK holds a press conference lauding peace and good-will in Birmingham. But Governor Wallace quickly condemns any attempt to end segregation or negotiate with Blacks. He sends in a small army of blue-helmeted Alabama State Troopers who begin military drills in Kelly Ingram park while Bull Connor orders his cops to padlock the doors of 16th Street church so it cannot be used as an assembly point. A local judge allied with Connor resets bail for Dr. King and Rev. Abernathy to the new $2,500 maximum which SCLC does not have. Shuttlesworth, Walker, and Bevel begin mobilizing for renewed protests. Desperate to prevent a resumption of protest and repression in Birmingham, Attorney General Robert Kennedy begs Harry Belafonte to raise the $5,000 needed to get the two leaders out on bond. King and Abernathy refuse to accept bond unless the 2,000 protesters still in jail are also released, but conservatives in the Black community bail the two leaders out to forestall new demonstrations.
Negotiations resume on Thursday the 9th, reaching tentative agreement to end segregation, but King refuses any settlement that leaves Birmingham children in jail. Meanwhile, a new federal civil rights bill outlawing segregation, is introduced by House Republicans. It eventually evolves into the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
With behind-the-scenes support from the Kennedys, Harry Belafonte works with the United Auto Workers union (UAW), United Steelworkers Union (USWA), and the New York City Transport Workers Union (TWU), to raise enough money to bail out all the jailed demonstrators. Movement attorney Clarence Jones flies that night from New York to Birmingham with a briefcase full of cash. The next day, Friday the 10th, as the prison doors open and the children stream out, Shuttlesworth announces to the world press: "The city of Birmingham has reached an accord with its conscience." Though it is to be phased in slowly over 60 days, the agreement amounts to a sweeping Movement victory, its main points include promises to desegregate public facilities in Birmingham, nondiscriminatory hiring practices, and ongoing public meetings between Black and white leaders.
The Klan reacts with violence. The next night the Gaston Motel and the home of Rev. A. D. King &mdash Dr. King's brother &mdash are bombed. The bombings occur on Saturday night just as the bars in the Black district are closing. An angry crowd gathers in Kelly Ingram Park, and rocks and bottles fly at the hated cops who respond with brutal fury. When the State Troopers attack with rifles and shotguns, the furious mob sets some stores on fire. But the Movement understands that the hard-line racists are trying to sabotage the agreement with violence, and they hold firm against provocation. A.D. King, Wyatt Walker, Bernard Lee, and others work the crowd, calming tempers and reducing violence.
In the following weeks and months the agreement is slowly implemented, with recriminations, disagreements, bickering, and conflicting interpretations. Shuttlesworth has to threaten resumption of protests to prod the process forward. But gradually, grudgingly, the "moderates" who are now in control of city government begin desegregation. In July, they finally repeal the segregation ordinances, the "White" and "Colored" signs come down, and the lunch counters are integrated. But employers resist hiring and promotion of Blacks into "white" jobs for years to come, and job discrimination remains a reality to this day.
The Ku Klux Klan, however, remains adamantly opposed to integration of any kind, and their pathological hatred of Blacks is as virulent as ever. On September 16th, they strike with ruthless viciousness, bombing 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four young girls and wounding more than 20 others.
Victory in Birmingham and the courage of the childrens' crusade inspire movements across the South. Direct action protests erupt in community after comunity. In the 10 weeks after Birmingham, statisticians count 758 protests in 186 cities, resulting in 14,733 arrests.
Birmingham Campaign Important Points
The powers-that-be respond only to pressure. The power-structure in Birmingham &mdash both Connor's hard-line faction and Boutwell's "moderates" &mdash made no changes in the racial status quo until forced to do so by pressure generated by Project C's direct action protests. The boycott applied direct economic loss on the politically powerful white merchants. The protests and mass arrests exhausted the city's police/prison budget and emergency reserves. The power-structure also came to realize that the more Birmingham became associated in the public mind with bigotry, violence, and civil strife, the harder it would be to attract new investment. And national corporations with large facilities in Birmingham wanted the crises resolved before their corporate identities became identified with brutality and racism. On the national level, the Kennedys had no interest in Birmingham, nor any intention of opposing segregation, until they were forced to take action by domestic public outrage and international embarrassment on the world stage.
A people's movement cannot rely on the national press. Today, media pundits pat themselves on the back, claiming that their civil rights coverage showed them to be great champions of freedom. The truth is quite different. Until the courage of young protesters forced their hand, the mainstream national press discounted the Birmingham movement, opposed and undercut it, ignored "Letter From a Birmingham Jail," and derided Dr. King while lauding Boutwell's go-slow "moderates." Eventually, media coverage extended the power of the Birmingham campaign far beyond the city limits, but that did not occur until the protests became so compelling that the press had no choice but to cover them. The news media did not make the Movement powerful, it was the power of the Movement that forced the press to cover it.
For more information on the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement:
Books: Birmingham Movement
Web: Birmingham Movement (Web links)
CRMVet Articles & Documents:
Birmingham Segregation Laws
Birmingham Manifesto, ACHMR, April 1963
The Meaning of Birmingham, Bayard Rustin. Liberation, 1963.
Test for Nonviolence &mdash Birmingham, Stephen Rose. Christian Century, 1963.
Freedom Now!, Pacifica Radio Archive transcript, 1963.
Birmingham Shall be Free Some Day, Fred Shuttlesworth. Freedom Ways, 1964.
The Mailman's March (Murder of William Moore) (April)
As Dr King and Rev. Abernathy are being bailed out of Birmingham jail following their arrest on the Good Friday march, William Moore, a white southerner, a member of Baltimore CORE, a U.S. postman, and a former Marine, starts his own freedom journey. On Saturday, April 20th, Moore stops in Washington DC to deliver a letter to President Kennedy informing the White House that he is taking his 10 days of vacation to walk from Chattanooga TN to Jackson MS where he will deliver a pro-integration letter to Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. The White House guards refuse to admit him or accept his note.
Moore starts south from Chatanooga &mdash walking alone down the road &mdash pushing his supplies in his two-wheel postal cart while wearing signs proclaiming End Segregation in America , Equal Rights for All Men , and Eat at Joes &mdash Black and White . Tuesday evening, a passing motorist discovers his body &mdash two bullets in his head &mdash lying by the side of U.S. Highway 11 near Gadsden Alabama, 60 miles short of Birmingham where he intended to visit his family. A member of the Gadsden KKK is arrested for the murder, but is never indicted or tried.
Vowing that they cannot allow violence to triumph over nonviolent direct action, two groups of activists take up Moore's march. They ask the Department of Justice for protection under their Constitutionally-guaranteed right of free speech. The Justice Department refuses. One march, led by Diane Nash who has been training student protesters in Birmingham, includes Freedom Rider Paul Brooks and six others. They start from the spot where Moore was killed and head back towards Birmingham. Alabama State Troopers arrest them. The other group of 10 CORE and SNCC activists starts out from Chatanooga to retrace Moore's entire route. This group includes SNCC members Jim Forman, Bill Hansen, Jesse Harris, Bob Zelner, and Sam Shirah a white student from all-white Birmingham Southern college who had attended a mass meeting to support the Birmingham Movement. When they cross into Alabama, they too are arrested.
Voter Registration Movement Expands in Mississippi Photos
After the Greenwood cops agree to stop assaulting Blacks trying to register and LeFlore county resumes food distribution, voter registration organizers once again expand outward into surrounding counties. Greenwood becomes the hub of activity for the Delta counties of LeFlore, Holmes, Carroll, Tallahatchie, Sunflower, and Humphreys. And organizers return to the areas around Laurel, Meridian, Hattiesburg, Holly Springs, and Vicksburg.
White resistance remains vicious. In Holmes county, Hartman Turnbow, a farmer, is one of the first Blacks to try to register since the end of Resonstruction. He leads 12 others to the county courthouse. Klan nightriders surround his home, firebomb it, and then shoot at him, his wife, and daughter when they try to escape the burning building. Turnbow grabs his rifle and returns fire, driving them off. The county Sheriff arrests Turnbow, accusing him of firebombing his own house and shooting it full of holes to win sympathy from Northern movement supporters. Bob Moses and three other SNCC organizers are also arrested. A local court convicts them &mdash without a shred of evidence &mdash but the charges are eventually dismissed when appealed to federal court.
The Movement carries on, and people of courage respond. In Sunflower County, Fannie Lou Hamer, 46 years old, mother of two children, a sharecropper and plantation worker all her life, steps up to register after talking to SNCC organizers and attending a voter registration mass meeting. She and almost 20 others go down to the courthouse in Indianola. The cops stop the old bus they are using, and arrest the driver because the bus is "the wrong color." When Mrs. Hamer returns home she is fired from her job and evicted from her home of 18 years. Klan marauders shoot up the house of a friend who gives her shelter. Fannie Lou Hamer is not intimidated, she commits her life and soul to the Freedom Movement, first as an SCLC Citizenship School teacher, then as a SNCC field secretary and MFDP candidate for Congress.
Mass Action in Durham (May) Photos
Inspired by the victory in Birmingham, mass protests led by Durham CORE and the NAACP Youth Council resume on May 18, 1963 as a desegregation campaign sweeps across central North Carolina. Hundreds of students march downtown from North Carolina College (today North Carolina Central University). They stage sit-ins at segregated businesses and institutions, including lunch counters, the courthouse, and City Hall itself. More than 100 are arrested. In support of those who have been busted, hundreds of protesters gather around the jail and courthouse. Newly-elected mayor Wense Grabarek (who has not yet been sworn into office) convinces the cops to allow food deliveries for the prisoners and the crowd returns to campus.
The following day, May 19, protesters rally at Saint Joseph's church to hear James Farmer of CORE and Roy Wilkins of the NAACP. They then target the Howard Johnson's, and hundreds of students sit down in the parking lot to block its use by customers. They are arrested. More demonstrators are arrested on May 20, raising the total to over 1,000 and filling the jails and courthouse holding cells.
Hundreds of white citizens (mostly employed by Duke University) take out a full-page newspaper ad urging desegregation, but other whites adamantly support the old order of white-supremacy and Black subservience. Racists mobilized by the Klan and White Citizens Council attack protesters in the downtown area, throwing rocks, firecrackers, and apples containing shards of broken glass at the Black students and their white supporters. The protests and the racist violence deter shoppers, and retail business in Durham's downtown economic core plummets. Black student leaders confront the city council, demanding immediate desegregation, school integration, and an end to job discrimination. CORE and the NAACP threaten a summer of mass demonstrations if the demands are not met.
Wense Grabarek, the new Durham mayor, assumes office. Elected in part with Black support, he immediately meets with Black leaders, including the student activists and direct action groups like CORE. On May 21st, he addresses a freedom rally at St. Joseph's church. He promises to oppose segregation and calls for a bi-racial committee to resolve the issue. He asks Durham Blacks to suspend protests in the interim. The Freedom Movement agrees on condition that any settlement has to be accepted by a Black negotiating committee headed by Floyd McKissick of CORE and NCC student leader Joyce Ware.
Within a few months segregation is ended at almost all of the city's public buildings, movies, lunch counters, hotels, swimming pools, the Chamber of Commerce, and even the bitterly-contested Royal Ice Cream parlor and Carolina theater. A few months later, Durham repeals the law requiring racial-segregation in eating establishments and a statement is adopted opposing discrimination based on race, color, creed, or national origin as contrary to constitutional principles and policies of the city and the nation.
For the first time, Blacks are admitted to Industrial Education Center job training programs for what used to be "white-only" retail occupations such as cashier and clerk. Companies under federal contract agree to abide by fair-hiring regulations as required by federal law, half a dozen Durham banks, some insurance firms, and Duke University all agree to end race-based job discrimination. Covert, "de-facto," race-discrimination in employment, education, housing, and other areas of economic and social life continues in less naked fashion, but segregation is no longer overt public-policy enforceable by law.
Mass Action in Greensboro (May-June)
In the after-glow of Birmingham, in May of 1963 mass action against segregation is renewed in Greensboro, NC. Though both the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce and the Merchants Association issue statements in favor of integration, local eating establishments and other businesses adamantly refuse to end segregation. On May 17 and 18, more than 700 are arrested for sitting in and other acts of civil disobedience. Most are Black students from NCA&T and Bennett College for Women along with a few white supporters from schools such as Guildford College.
As the number of arrests continues to climb, the jail is filled to capacity. An abandoned polio hospital and the National Guard armory have to be converted into temporary prisons. Each day, Bennett College president Willa Player, a staunch supporter of the freedom struggle, visits her imprisoned students to bring them food, mail, and homework assignments so they don't fall behind in preparation for final exams which are fast approaching.
With so many students incarcerated, parents and community elders step up to continue the struggle. A Coordinating Council composed of student, CORE, and NAACP leaders, the Greensboro Citizens Association, and local ministers is formed to mobilize the community for action. On May 19, CORE national chairman James Farmer addresses a huge mass meeting, asking how many are willing to go to jail? More than a thousand wave their toothbrushes in the air to indicate they are ready (protesters carried toothbrushes and cigarettes for the inevitable sojourn in the slammer). Marches are shifted to the evening so that working adults can participate and on the 22nd, some 2,000 Blacks and a few whites, including many adults, participate in a silent march to Jefferson Square, the intersection that marks the center of Greensboro's downtown business district.
Overwhelmed by the number of prisoners they have to house and care for, city officials declare that bail is waived, all of the demonstrators can go home. Now. Please. Most of the jailed students refuse to leave, saying: "You arrested us and put us here for demanding our civil rights, now you can keep us here and feed us." When the police come to remove them, they go limp, forcing the cops to drag them out of the cells, out the jail doors, and into commandeered school buses that return them back to campus.
Greensboro Mayor David Schenck appoints Dr. George Evans, a Black school board member, to form a new committee to negotiate with the owners of segregated businesses towards achieving desegregation. The Black Coordinating Council demands an ordinance prohibiting segregation in public accommodations (instead of requiring it), complete school desegregation, promotion of "Negro Police" to full law-enforcement status, hiring of Blacks for city jobs, and dismissal of charges against protesters. On the 24th, they agree to temporarily suspend demonstrations pending the outcome of the Evans Committee effort.
More than 1,500 whites sign a pro-integration ad in the Greensboro Daily News. But the segregated businesses refuse to budge. With school ending for the year, demonstrations are resumed in early June.
Under CORE rules of direct action, every demonstration is led by a captain who might, or might not, be an officer of the CORE chapter. The protests in Greensboro are led by NCA&T student Jesse Jackson, who is also class president and football quarterback. He declares, "We have given ample time for the committee to negotiate. We are concerned with actions, not words," On Sunday, June 2nd, he leads a silent march of 200 into downtown. More marches &mdash each one larger, and no longer silent but filled with freedom singing &mdash follow on Monday and Tuesday.
On Wednesday evening, Jackson leads 700 to protest at City Hall where, instead of praying silently on the sidewalk, they move into the street where they both pray and block traffic. Greensboro Police Captain William Jackson (no relation to Jesse) orders them to clear the street or face arrest. Singing freedom songs, the marchers return to their church without incident. One adult marcher tells the mass meeting:
Under the pastorship of Father Richard Hicks, the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer is Movement headquarters. On the morning of Thursday, June 6, word spreads that an "Inciting to Riot" warrant has been issued for Jesse Jackson because he led the demonstrators into the street the night before at City Hall. Jesse addresses the crowd:
Captain Jackson arrives &mdash alone &mdash at the church to take Jesse Jackson into custody while Movement supporters sing "We shall not, we shall not be moved." There is no antagonism directed at Captain Jackson, he is well respected for scrupulous fairness and preventing white violence against young demonstrators. Everyone knows he is just doing his duty as ordered by those in power above him. But there is deep anger at Jesse's arrest on an absurd charge (there had been no riot) and at the white businessmen who insist on maintaining the humiliations of segregation.
Jesse's arrest galvanizes the Black community. In the twilight of a summer evening, a long column of singing marchers, two-by-two on the sidewalk, come flowing into downtown. When they reach the still-segregated S&W Cafeteria, hundreds surge into the Jefferson Square intersection. Singing "We Shall Not Be Moved," they sit down, blocking traffic in all directions. The cops are ready. Every available Greensboro officer, the sheriffs and all their reserves, and 50 state Highway Patrolmen have been mobilized. Almost 300 are arrested, hauled to the Memorial Coliseum in a Duke Power Company bus for booking. Hundreds of remaining demonstrators return to their neighborhoods to mobilize an even bigger protest for the next day.
The following afternoon, Mayor Schenck makes a public address from a local TV station. He calls for an immediate end to segregation in eating establishments, theaters, hotels, and motels. "Now is the time to throw aside the shackles of past customs. Selection of customers purely by race is outdated, morally unjust, and not in keeping with either democratic or Christian philosophy." He asks for another suspension of protests and announces formation of a new, more powerful, bi-racial committee. A divided Coordinating Council agrees to again suspend direct action.
Within a week, a quarter of Greensboro's segregated restaurants and businesses agree to desegregate. But unlike Durham, progress in Greensboro is slow and grudging, with recalcitrant white resistance that Schenck and the power-structure are either unable or unwilling to overcome. Some Black student leaders call for a renewal of mass protests, but the momentum has faded and though they undertake some small actions there is nothing on the scale of May and June. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ends legally-enforced segregation nationwide a year later, more than half of Greensboro's eating establishments are still segregated.
Jackson Sit-in & Protests (May-June) Photos
By Easter, 70% of Black shoppers are supporting the boycott of Jackson's white-owned stores. College and high school students are clandestinely distributing 10,000 leaflets a month in Jackson and the surrounding area a total of 110,000 by the end of May. Most of Jackson's Black churches allow boycott leaders to speak at Sunday services. Underground boycott committees are active in many of Jackson's Black neighborhoods and there are secret student committees at the three Black high schools, Lanier, Brinkly, and Jim Hill. Supporters in the North are mounting sympathy pickets against Woolworths and other chain stores in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and elsewhere.
The boycott is energized and sustained by the young activists of the NAACP Youth Councils. But against the entrenched resistance of the White Citizens Council backed by state and local government, they know that the boycott alone is not strong enough to break segregation in Jackson Mississippi. Inspired by the Birmingham Movement, they are convinced that similar mass protests are necessary in Jackson. NAACP state Field Director Medgar Evers shares their views, but the NAACP's national leaders prefer lawsuits and voter education to mass direct action, and they control the purse-strings. Though they reluctantly accept the necessity of a few pickets being arrested to publicize the boycott, they adamantly oppose sit-ins, mass marches, or other tactics that they associate with Dr. King, whom they view as an upstart rival.
As an employee of the national organization, Medgar is prohibited from endorsing or participating in mass direct action. But the other NAACP activists in Jackson are unpaid volunteers and thus have more freedom to chart their own course. On May 12, Jackson boycott leaders send a letter to the white power-structure demanding fair employment, an end to segregation, and biracial negotiations with officials and community leaders. Large-scale, Birmingham-style, direct action is threatened if the city refuses to meet with Black leaders. The letter is signed by Medgar, Mrs. Doris Allison who is President of the Jackson NAACP, and Hunter Bear (John Salter) the NAACP Youth Council's adult advisor.
Led by Mayor Allen Thompson, the power-structure adamantly refuses to make any concessions or to meet with Black leaders.
A mass meeting is called on May 21 at the Pearl Street AME church. The cops surround the church, but over 600 people a cross-section of the community, young and old, poor and affluent defy police intimidation to ratify the demands in the May 12 letter and democratically elect a 14-member negotiating committee.
Mayor Thompson refuses to meet with the elected committee. Instead he appoints his own "Negro Committee" composed of conservative, pro-segregation Blacks, such as Jackson State College President Jacob Reddix who had previously suppressed civil rights activity on his campus.
One week later, on Tuesday, May 28, after training in the tactics of Nonviolent Resistance by Dave Dennis of CORE, young activists Lois Chafee, Perlena Lewis, Anne Moody, Memphis Norman, Joan Trumpauer, and Walter Williams, sit-in at Woolworth's lunch counter on Capitol Street in downtown Jackson. They are joined by youth advisor Hunter Bear. Mercedes Wright (NAACP Georgia youth advisor) and Tougaloo Chaplin Reverend Ed King act as observers.
The boycott pickets outside are immediately arrested as usual. But, surprisingly, the cops do not bust those who are sitting in. Instead, a mob of white teenagers and young men are allowed (encouraged) to enter Woolworths to attack the sit-ins, cursing, punching, covering them with mustard, ketchup, & sugar. Water mixed with pepper is thrown into their eyes. Jackson Police Captain Ray and dozens of cops do nothing as Memphis Norman is pulled from his stool, beaten and kicked. After he loses consciousness, the cops arrest him. Joan too is beaten, kicked, and dragged to the door, but with steadfast, nonviolent courage she manages to resume her seat. FBI agents observe, and as usual do nothing.
Hunter Bear (John Salter) later described what happened:
George Raymond of New Orleans CORE arrives and joins the sit-ins. Dr. A. D. Beittel, President of Tougaloo College, sits down to join the students' protest. Unable to intimidate the sit-ins, the mob begins to smash up the store. At that point, the police immediately order them out. In Mississippi it's okay to savagely attack "race mixers," but destroying commercial property won't be tolerated.
The Mayor meets with the Black "leaders" selected by him and tells them he will desegregate public facilities such as parks and libraries, hire some Negro cops, and promote a few Black sanitation workers.
That night, more than 1,000 people attend a mass meeting at Pearl St. Church to support the boycott and the sit-ins. The young activists call for mass protest marches like those in Birmingham. But at the urging of the more conservative Black ministers, the young activists agree to temporarily halt demonstrations while the Mayor's promise is tested.
The next day, Wednesday May 29, the Mayor denies that he made any concessions at all. He announces that protests will not be tolerated and hastily deputizes 1,000 "special officers" drawn from the ranks of the most virulent racists. A mob of whites and over 200 cops prowl Capitol Street ready to pounce on any pickets or sit-ins. Woolworths and other stores close their lunch counters and remove the seats. Pickets led by local NAACP chair Doris Allison are immediately arrested, but students successfully desegregate the Jackson library (scene of the Tougaloo Nine arrest in 1961).
That night a firebomb is thrown at Medgar's home. The police refuse to investigate, calling it a "prank." The following day, Thursday May 30, more pickets and sit-ins are arrested.
With the public school term ending the next day (Friday, the 31st), high school students begin mobilizing for mass marches to begin as soon as school lets out. At Lanier and Brinkley High, Youth Council activists lead several hundred students singing freedom songs on the lawn during lunch break. Cops force the Lanier students back into the building with clubs and dogs. The school is surrounded, and parents are beaten and arrested when try to reach school.
To protest police brutality, Tougaloo students and community adults stage a nonviolent protest at the Jackson Federal building (site of federal court, FBI, and US Marshal's offices). Even though they are on federal property and their action is protected by the First Amendment, they are immediately arrested by the Jackson police. FBI agents and Justice Department officials observe this violation of Constitutionally-protected free speech, but do nothing about it.
As soon as school lets out for the summer on Friday May 31st, close to 600 Lanier, Brinkley, and Jim Hill high school students join students on summer break from Tougaloo and Jackson State at Farish Street Baptist Church for the first mass march. Their plan is continuous marches like Birmingham with jail-no-bail for those arrested (there is no money for bail bonds, and the cost of incarcerating hundreds of protesters will put pressure on the authorities).
Hundreds of cops, troopers, "special deputies," and sheriffs surround the church. Whites in cars prowl the city waving Confederate flags. Led by NAACP youth organizer Willie Ludden, the students march out of the church two-by-two on the sidewalk. Carrying American flags, they start towards the downtown shopping district on Capital Street. The cops block the street. They grab the flags from the marchers and drop them in the dirt. Beating some of the marchers with clubs, they force them into garbage trucks and take them to the animal stockade at the nearby state fairgrounds. "Just like Nazi Germany," observes World War II veteran Medgar Evers who is not allowed to participate in the march by his NAACP superiors. U.S. Department of Justice officials observe, and do nothing.
That night 1500 people attend a huge mass meeting. Though the students planned to go jail-no-bail, NAACP lawyers who oppose mass marches convince many of them to bond out. And the minors are forced to sign a no-demonstration pledge before being released. But a hard core of protesters over the age of 18 hold out, refusing to sign the pledge.
On Saturday, June 1st NAACP national head Roy Wilkins, Medgar Evers, and Mrs. Helen Wilcher of Jackson are arrested for picketing downtown stores. It is Wilkins first-ever civil rights arrest, and the three are quickly bonded out. A number of national NAACP leaders are now in Jackson vigorously opposing mass marches and mass arrests. They argue for voter registration and continuing the boycott in the same manner as the past six months. Despite their opposition, late in the day 100 students and adults march. The cops are caught by surprise, and the marchers manage to get several blocks through the Black community before being surrounded and hauled to the fair grounds stockade in garbage trucks.
On Sunday June 2nd, the Jackson NAACP offices are locked up tight and there is no place for marchers to gather. Using their control of funds, the national NAACP leaders oust the student and Youth Council activists from the democratically elected strategy committee and replace them with conservative ministers and affluent community "leaders" who oppose Birmingham-style mass action. The new, reconstituted, committee agrees to refocus on the boycott, voter registration, and court cases.
Over the following days the national NAACP leaders prevent any new mass marches. Without the sustaining energy of mass action, morale sags and attendance at mass meetings drops, though a hard core of students are still holding out in the stockade, refusing to be bonded out.
On Thursday, June 6th, a Hinds County court issues a sweeping injunction against all forms of movement activity. Though the injunction blatantly violates Constitutionally protected rights of free-speech and assembly, the national NAACP leaders who have taken over the Jackson movement choose not defy it with direct action. Discouraged and disheartened, the last students accept bond and leave the stockade. Noted comedian Dick Gregory, who had come to Jackson to participate in demonstrations returns to Chicago saying: "The NAACP decided to go into the courts and I'm no attorney. I came down here to be with that little man in the streets and I was willing to go to jail for ten years, if necessary to get this problem straight."
Though the boycott continues to be effective, store-owners dare not go against the White Citizens Council by hiring Blacks or integrating facilities no matter how much business they lose. Without the pressure of sit-ins and mass marches, neither local officials nor the federal government have any reason to challenge the status quo. And without the defiance of young protesters inspiring the courage of their elders, the NAACP's voter registration drive has little success.
For more information on the Jackson Civil Rights Movement:
Book: Jackson, Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism
Web: Jackson Movement for web links.
Personal stories from the Jackson Movement: Hunter Bear and A Magnolia Tale
Danville VA, Movement (May-Aug) Photos
Danville, Virginia. A gritty mill & tobacco town on the North Carolina border. Population almost 50,000, one-third Black, two-thirds white. The largest employer is textile giant Dan River Mills employing thousands &mdash but Blacks make up only small fraction of the workforce and they are restricted to the dirtiest, lowest-paid, most-menial jobs. In 1960 the median income for whites was over $5,000 (equal to about $37,500 in 2012), for Blacks barely half that. Strict segregation is the rule in Danville, few Blacks are registered to vote, whites hold all political offices, and the police are all white.
The Danville Christian Progressive Association (DCPA), an SCLC affiliate, is led by the Reverends Lendall Chase, Lawrence Campbell, and Alexander Dunlap, along with Julius Adams and Arthur Pinchback. They file suit in 1962 demanding the integration of Danville's hospitals, schools, cemeteries, public buildings, public housing projects, teaching assignments, and city employment opportunities. In early 1963 they are arrested for trying to integrate a Howard Johnson restaurant.
Inspired by Birmingham, a broad cross-section of the Black community meets on May 31st under the auspices of the DCPA. They call for desegregation of public and government facilities, fair employment, representation in government, and a biracial committee to monitor and address racial issues. A boycott of white merchants is declared, and a march to City Hall follows. Most of the marchers are high school students led by Ezell Barksdale and Thurman Echols. There is a similar march each day for the next five days.
On June 5, DCPA leaders Campbell & Dunlap along with some of the student leaders try to meet with Danville Mayor Julian Stinson. He refuses to meet with them. They refuse to leave and sit down on floor to wait. They are all are arrested for "inciting to riot." Bail is set high at $5,500 (equal to about $41,000 in 2012 dollars). The daily march escalates to civil disobedience by sitting down on Main Street to block traffic.
The next day Archibald Aiken, the local judge, issues an injunction forbidding protesters from interfering with traffic or business, obstructing entrances to buildings, participating in or inciting mob violence, or using loud language that might disrupt the peace. In response, DCPA leader Campbell calls Jim Forman in Atlanta to request assistance from SNCC.
Judge Aiken convense a special grand jury and indicts 13 DCPA, SCLC, and SNCC activists for violating the "John Brown" law. This law, passed in 1830 after a slave uprising, makes it serious felony to "..incite the colored population to acts of violence or war against the white population." It becomes known as the "John Brown" law in 1860 because it is used to convict and hang abolitionist John Brown after his raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 &mdash an event that helps precipitate the Civil War. Black attorney and Movement activist Len Holt, who has been defending arrested protesters, is later added to the indictment.
Answering the call, Movement activists arrive in Danville. Among them are SNCC field secretaries Avon Rollins, Ivanhoe Donaldson, Dorothy (Dottie) Miller, Bob Zellner, SNCC summer volunteer Daniel Foss, and CORE members Bruce Baines and Claudia Edwards. Over the course of the summer, more than 15 SNCC organizers serve in Danville.
The DCPA adds fair employment at Dan River Mills to its demands and daily picket lines are mounted outside the factory gates. The DCPA and SNCC call for a national boycott of the mill's linen and bedding products. The boycott is supported by unions such as the ILGWU and Friends of SNCC chapters around the country.
On Monday, June 10, nonviolent protesters kneel in prayer on the City Hall steps. They are viciously attacked by police and hastily deputized city employees using clubs and high pressure firehoses. Of 65 protesters, 50 are arrested and 48 are injured seriously enough to require medical attention which is not forthcoming at the inadequate, segregated, Black infirmary (the city hospital is "white-only"). SNCC workers Avon Rollins and Daniel Foss are among those busted for violating Aiken's injunction. Arrested high school students are encouraged by the authorities to call their parents. When their mothers and fathers arrive at the jail, they are arrested for "Contributing to the delinquency of a minor." Black property-owners in Pittsylvania County put up property-bonds to bail everyone out of jail.
Daily marches continue. On June 13, more than 250 led by Rev. Chase march to City Hall to once again try to see the Mayor. As usual, he refuses to meet with Blacks. The protesters then wait for 9 hours on the City Hall steps. The sing freedom songs, Jim Forman of SNCC gives a lecture on Black history, and local church women bring them sandwiches and soft drinks. Finally, as the police mass for another attack, the demonstrators fall back to their church for a mass meeting. Cops armed with submachine guns and a tank set up roadblocks to intimidate those who try to attend the meeting.
Day after day, protests continue &mdash as do arrests and police violence. By August 28th, date of the March on Washington, over 600 have been arrested in Danville on charges of inciting to violence, contempt, trespassing, disorderly conduct, assault, parading without a permit, and resisting arrest. Danville sends a large contingent to join the huge march, but back home the arrests, violence, and intimidation have sapped the movement's strength. Demonstrations dwindle and become less frequent. Their demands are not met &mdash or even addressed &mdash by government officials or the the mill owners. It is only after the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that conditions for Danville's Black community start to slowly change.
The hundreds of legal cases arising out of the suppression of the Danville Movement drag on for 10 years. Volunteer lawyers from the National Lawyer's Guild and the NAACP, including William Kunstler and Len Holt among others, fight the legal battles all the way to the Supreme Court. Eventually, the injunction is upheld and the convictions are allowed to stand, but the jail sentences are suspended.
For more information on the Danville Civil Rights Movement:
Book: An Act of Conscience
Web:Danville VA Movement
Documents: Danville Virginia (SNCC pamphlet) [PDF] [Large file]
Atrocity in Winona (June)
Early in June, SCLC organizer Annell Ponder takes a group of Movement activists from Greenwood and the Delta to Frogmore SC for a week-long training as Citizenship School teachers. While adult-literacy is the ostensible purpose of the Citizenship Schools, they teach far more &mdash voter registration, community organizing, political action, and resistance to segregation. Many of the local leaders who form the backbone of the Southern Freedom Movement across the South come up through the Citizenship Schools, first as students, then as teachers of others.
On the return trip, they have to change busses in Columbus MS. The driver shoves them out of line and forces them to sit segregated in the back of the bus. He calls ahead to the next rest stop at Winona MS, alerting the police and State Troopers who are ready when the bus pulls in on Sunday, June 9th. Five of the Movement activists &mdash Fannie Lou Hamer, 15 year old June Johnson of Greenwood, young SNCC activist Euvester Simpson from Ita Bena, James West, and Rosemary Freeman &mdash are arrested on trumped up charges when some of them try to eat at the white lunch counter. (The actions of the driver and the police are in flagrant violation of the federal "no-segregation" regulations won by the Freedom Rides and numerous court rulings.)
They are taken to an isolated county jail where no one can hear them scream. One by one they are taken to the interrogation room. June is stripped naked and beaten with a blackjack until the blood pours down her face. Annell is next. They call her "nigger bitch," and demand that she address them as "Sir." She refuses. They beat her down to the floor, again, and again. Bloody and battered, they drag her back to the cells.
Then they come for Fannie Lou Hamer. The police know she tried to register to vote, and tell her, "You, bitch, you, we're going to make you wish you were dead." They force her down on a cot and bring in two Black prisoners. A Mississippi State Trooper tells them, "If you don't beat her, you know what we'll do to you." While one of the prisoners holds her down, the other beats Mrs. Hamer with a thich leather cosh. When the first one tires, they switch places.
Euvester Simpson, still a teenager, shares a cell that night with Mrs. Hamer,
As word of the arrests spread, SCLC leader Andrew Young tries to prod the FBI and Justice Department into action &mdash to no avail. When SNCC field secretary Lawrence Guyot calls the Winona jail from Greenwood, he is told he has to come in person to find out the charges, bail, and condition of the prisoners. Winona is only 25 miles from Greenwood and he arrives quickly. The police are waiting for him. They beat him with gun butts, strip him naked and threaten to burn off his genitals. Eventually a doctor warns the cops that they are close to killing him. The Sherrif then arrests Guyot for "attempted murder."
SNCC alerts supporters around the nation to immediately call the Montgomery County Sheriff and Winona police about the prisoners so that the cops know they are under public scrutiny. More SNCC activists reach Winona the following day (June 10), one manages to get into the jail where Annell Ponder is held. She reports back to the Greenwood office, "Annell's face was swollen. she could barely talk. She looked at me and was able to whisper one word: FREEDOM."
After three days Andy Young manages to bail Lawrence Guyot and the five Citizenship teachers out of jail and get them desperately needed medical attention. Mrs. Hamer never fully recovers from her injuries, suffering from damage to her kidneys and partial loss of sight in one eye for the rest of her life.
In September, public pressure finally prods the Justice Department to file charges against the Sheriff, a State Trooper and three other police for conspiring to deprive the six of their civil rights. An all-white jury acquits them of all charges in December.
In later years Mrs. Hamer often speaks of Winona and the affect it had on her:
For more information on the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement:
Fannie Lou Hamer
Fannie Lou Hamer
Winona (Social Justice Movements
Standing In the Schoolhouse Door (June)
In the years following Autherine Lucy's unsuccessful effort to integrate the University of Alabama in 1956, hundreds of Blacks apply for admission. They are all denied. The university works with state and local police to dig up any slander or accusation that can be used to disqualify Black applicants. And in cases where that fails, economic and physical intimidation and beauracratic evasion suffices.
But in 1963, three Blacks with perfect qualifications apply &mdash Vivian Malone of Mobile, James Hood of Gadsden, and Dave McGlathery of Huntsville. They refuse to be intimidated, and the frantic efforts of state detectives fail to find any grounds for disqualifying them. In early June a federal judge issues an injunction ordering their admission and forbidding Governor Wallace from interfering.
Back in 1962, when Wallace announced his candidacy for Governor, he promise defend segregation at all costs and to resist integration to the end even if it meant defying court orders, saying: "I shall refuse to abide by any such illegal federal court order even to the point of standing in the schoolhouse door, if necessary. "
In Washington, the Kennedys are still smarting from the debacle at Oxford MS when James Meredith desegregated 'Ole Miss leaving two dead and more than a 100 U.S. Marshalls injured. Finally, at long last, with national support for civil rights growing, they are beginning to lose patience with the more extreme southern segregationists.
June 11 is registration day for the university's summer session. With his eye on future political prospects, Wallace orders the Klan to stay away from Tuscaloosa, he wants no violence to upstage his political theater. Deputy U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach (later Attorney General in the Johnson administration) confronts Wallace who is standing at a podium in front of the building. In the full view of TV news cameras, Wallace cuts off Katzenbach's words and launches into a tirade condemning the federal government for usurping "states rights." Flanked by some of Al Lingo's Alabama State Troopers he then literally stands in the doorway to block Katzenbach.
This time the Kennedys are ready. They immediately federalize the Alabama National Guard. Backed by rifles and bayonets, the commander of the guard does his duty, ordering Wallace to obey the court order. His political points scored and his segregationist credentials burnished, Wallace steps aside and Vivian Malone and James Hood are registered. Dave McGlathery is registered without incident at the Huntsville campus the following day. That night, Kennedy addresses the nation on civil rights.
Kennedy's Civil Rights Speech
On June 11, Alabama Governor Wallace stands in the schoolhouse door to prevent two Black students &mdash Vivian Malone and James Hood &mdash from enrolling in the University of Alabama. President Kennedy orders him aside and enforces federal court integration orders. That night, in response to Wallace's bombastic rhetoric and to explain his actions, JFK addresses the nation on civil rights. For the first time he unequivocally condemns segregation and racial discrimination, and he announces his intention to submit to Congress a new, effective, civil rights bill.
Movement supporters are bouyed up by Kennedy's speech, particularly his promise to seek new civil rights bill &mdash a promise that marks a significant change in administration policy. During the 1960 campaign, JFK had assured southern (white) voters that he saw no need for any new civil rights legislation, and at the same time he told northern liberals and Blacks that he would address civil rights issues by issuing executive orders. Once in office, however, he proved slow and reluctant to use his executive powers on behalf of southern Blacks and denied any need for new laws.
A few hours after Kennedy's address, Medgar Evers is assasinated in Jackson MS.
American Presidency Project, UCSB)
Civil Rights Address (Audio
Medgar Evers Assassination (June)
After a late meeting, and bouyed by President Kennedy's eloquent address to the nation on civil rights, NAACP state Field Director Medgar Evers returns to his Jackson home a bit after midnight in the early morning hours of June 12.
Hiding behind a bush with a high-power rifle is KKK and White Citizens Council member Byron De La Beckwith of Greenwood MS. He shoots Medgar in the back and flees into the night. Medgar's wife Myrlie and their children rush to his side as he lays dying in the driveway. He is just 37 years old when they gun him down. (Dr. King is just 39 when he is assassinated in Memphis five years later.)
At the time of his assasination, Medgar Evers is the most prominent leader of the Mississippi freedom movement. The son of sharecroppers, he grows up in Decatur, Mississippi. He and his wife Myrlie move to Mound Bayou in the Mississippi delta where they begin organizing NAACP chapters in 1952. (Mound Bayou is a Black town founded by freed slaves in the late 1800s.) In 1954 Medgar becomes the state's first NAACP field secretary, courageously traveling the state to organize and sustain the movement. He plays a key role in the desegregation of the University of Mississippi and the Jackson Movement.
Medgar's assassination is part of a KKK plot to simultaneously murder freedom workers in three states: Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Later that day, Klansman brutally beat SNCC worker Bernard Lafayette in Selma Alabama. Rev. Elton Cox, a CORE worker in Louisiana is also targeted, but the Klan is unable to locate him.
Evers a former Sargent in the U.S. Army and World War II veteran is buried with full honors in the Arlington National Cemetery on June 19.
On June 23, De La Beckwith is arrested for the murder. His fingerprints are on the rifle, witnesses place him at the scene, and he boasts of his crime to White Citizen Council and Klan buddies. An all-white jury refuses to convict him. During the trial, De La Beckwith is visited by Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett and Major General Edwin A. Walker who had helped incite the white mob when James Meredith integrated Ole Miss in 1962. De La Beckwith is tried a second time, and again an all-white jury fails to convict him. As Medgar's friend Sam Baily put it: "A white man got more time for killing a rabbit out of season than for killing a Negro in Mississippi."
Medgar's brother Charles takes over as NAACP Field Secretary and continues working in the freedom struggle. Myrlie and the children move to California where she enrolls in Pomona College, graduating in 1968. She is active in public affairs and continues the struggle to have her husband's murderer arrested, tried, and punished. In 1995 she is elected the national Chairwoman of the NAACP and serves in that position until 1998.
Finally, in 1994 after a thirty year campaign for justice the state of Mississippi finds the political will to bring a known killer to justice. Byron De La Beckwith is tried a third time and convicted by a jury of eight Blacks and four whites. He is given a life sentence, and dies in prison in 2001.
For more information on Medgar Evers and Civil Rights Movement murders:
Books: Medgar Evers
Web: Medgar Evers
Medical Committee for Civil Rights Pickets the AMA (June) Photo
Like everything else in the South of the 1960s, health care is segregated and unequal. The vast majority of doctors are white. Some will treat Black patients, but many refuse to treat Blacks under any circumstances, and others are like the Mississippi doctor who told historian James Cobb: "If there is a nigger in my waiting room who doesn't have three dollars in cash, he can sit there and die. I don't treat niggers without money."
For a Black sharecropper who might earn no more than $50 cash in an entire year, $3 is a huge sum. And for those Blacks who can pay, the examination and treatment reflect the world-view of white-supremecy. Said one Black patient in the Mississippi Delta, "Most often I sits on one side of the office and he sits on the other asking questions. There ain't no listening, or thumping, or looking in the mouth like white folks get." 
Many county hospitals &mdash which are funded by taxes paid by Blacks as well as whites &mdash refuse to admit or treat Blacks at all. Other hospitals require that a Black patient pay in cash before treatment (white patients, of course, are treated immediately regardless of their economic circumstances).
There are few Black doctors or nurses, and most public and private medical and nursing schools in the South refuse to admit non-whites. Most hospitals and county health departments won't hire Blacks for anything other than menial jobs. In many counties, Black doctors are not allowed to treat their patients in those hospitals that do admit Blacks because hospital "privileges" are restricted to members of the county medical associations which are "whites-only."
Back in 1946, Congress passed the Hill-Burton Act which each year provided federal funds for hospital construction. According to the law, these federally-funded facilities are required to provide care to all races without discrimination, but Senator Lister Hill of Alabama added a "separate-but-equal" loophole which permitted segregated wards and buildings. As a result, the segregated facilities built in the South with federal money perpetuate the practice of unequal care &mdash many Hill-Burton hospitals refuse to treat Blacks at all, others create cramped, ill-equipped, "annexes" for Black patients. In Leflore County Mississippi, for example, where Blacks are two-thirds of the total population in 1960, 131 of the county's 168 hospital beds (78%) were reserved for "whites-only," leaving just 37 (22%) for Blacks.
The inevitable results of segregated and unequal health care are starkly revealed by government birth and natal statistics. In Mississippi, 99% of all white births in 1963 are attended by a physcian, but only 57% of Black mothers have the benefit of a doctor's care. In Alabama, infant mortality among Blacks is twice that of whites, and a Black mother is four times as likely to die in child-birth as a white woman.
In June of 1963, the national convention of the American Medical Society (AMA) is held in Atlantic City, NJ. Inspired by the Sit-ins, Freedom Rides, and the struggle in Birmingham, a few progressive doctors decide to picket the convention to protest the AMA's continued tolerance of affiliated county and state medical societies that refuse to admit Black doctors, thereby denying them medical privileges in tax-funded hospitals.
Led by doctors Walter Lear, Montague Cobb, John Holloman, and Bob Smith, the newly formed Medical Committee for Civil Rights (MCCR) draws support from the Physicians Forum &mdash an organization of doctors in New York who support the idea of national health insurance and "embraced the radical notion that medical care is a right for all." Support also comes from the National Medical Association (NMA), the Black counterpart to the segregated AMA.
They face a problem though, "doctors do not carry picket signs." The point of the picket is to influence the other doctors who are attending the convention, many of whom would be deeply offended by the sight of physcians carrying signs like unionized laborers. To avoid such a grave faux pau, the MCCR attaches their signs to sandwich boards which can be placed on the boardwalk &mdash but that violates a municiple ordinance. Lear and Holloman met with the Atlantic City police chief who quickly grasps the class distinctions, "Yes, I understand," he tells them. "Doctors don't carry signs."
On June 12th, twenty or so MCCR doctors and other health professionals are allowed to picket by circling around their stationary signs placed on the boardwalk (see photo).
While some AMA delegates express support for desegregating AMA affiliates in the South, AMA official refuse to budge. The outgoing president charges that the picketers are "typical. of those who are trying to force their ideas on the masses of the American people." And the incoming president tells reporters that while he personally favors admitting "qualified Negroes" to local AMA societies, the AMA will "not interfere in those constituent groups that bar Negroes."
But the pickets are not discouraged. They have at least forced the AMA to publicly acknowledge the issue, and there is significant press coverage of their protest. Returning home to Jackson Mississippi where he is one of just a handful of Black doctors, Bob Smith, "realized for the first time that from then on things would never be the same. I saw that I was serving a purpose, that there was a higher calling, and that this thing needed the kind of leadership and pushing that we were bringing, and that we would never give up until we had achieved some of these goals." 
Within two months the Medical Committee for Civil Rights grows to over 200 members, and together with the National Medical Association and the American Nurses Association they participate as unit in the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom. But there is no money or fund-raising mechanism to sustain the organization. By the Fall of 1963, burdened with debts it cannot pay, MCCR disolves. Yet the ideas of a medical arm of the Freedom Movement, and equal access to health care as a civil right, do not die. Soon a new organization, the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), rises from MCCR's ashes.
Medgar's Funeral and the End of the Jackson Movement (June)
On the morning of Medgar Evers Assassination (June 12), former Tougaloo student Colia Lidell (now married to Bernard Lafayette and working for SNCC in Selma, Alabama), Hunter Bear (John Salter), Perleana Lewis, Willie Ludden of the NAACP, and Dave Dennis of CORE, lead a protest march of 200 people from the Masonic Temple (NAACP HQ) on Lynch Street. Half the marchers are adults, the other half students from Tougaloo and Jackson State colleges and Lanier, Hill, and Brinkley high schools. They are blocked by a swarm of hundreds of cops who arrest 150 and violently force the others to disperse with clubs and guns.
The young college and high school activists mobilize for a mass meeting at Pearl Street church that evening from which they intend to stage a large night march. Even though the police surround the church and intimidate those trying to attend, there is a huge turnout. But the national NAACP leaders in Jackson cancel the night march as too dangerous.
The next day, (Thursday, June 13) after training in nonviolent tactics by Dave Dennis of CORE, the young activists stage a mass march from Pearl Street church. The cops block it, tearing American flags from the hands of marchers as they arrest them. A crowd of Black bystanders watching the police brutality chant, "Freedom! Freedom Now!"
The cops charge into the crowd to arrest and beat Hunter Bear who is observing the march from the porch of a nearby home. White Movement activists Steve Rutledge and Lois Chafee are also arrested with him. The cops and local press blame "outside agitators" for the growing anger and unrest among Jackson Blacks. Taken to the fair grounds stockade, the marchers are brutalized and some are forced into broiling hot "sweat boxes" under the blazing sun on a day when the temperature soars to over 100 degrees.
That night there is another huge mass meeting in the sweltering Blair Street AME church. In memory of Medgar, SCLC offers to set up a "Medgar Evers Memorial Bail Bond Fund," but NAACP national officers in New York reject the offer out of organizational rivalry. Dave Dennis of CORE and NAACP youth advisor Hunter Bear argue for continuing the mass actions, but the national NAACP leaders in Jackson block them.
On Friday, June 14, young college and high school activists again gather for a march, but national NAACP leaders tell them that if they are arrested that day they won't be out of jail in time to attend Medgar's funeral scheduled for Saturday. Everyone is expecting a massive demonstration in conjunction with the funeral. Most of the young demonstrators don't want to risk missing the funeral march, so only 37 are willing to protest. It is Flag Day, so they go downtown carrying American flags, but no freedom signs of any kind. They are beaten and arrested and their flags are seized.
The city agrees to allow a mass funeral procession from the Masonic Temple to Collins funeral home on Farish street, but only if none of the marchers carry any signs advocating integration or an end to segregation, and the march is silent with no singing, chanting, or speech-making allowed in other words, that it cannot in any way be considered a demonstration. The national NAACP leaders agree to those terms and forbid the young activists from engaging in protest activity during or after the funeral procession. Though bitterly disappointed, the militants who had worked soed so closely with Medgar understand that unity and discipline are essential.
On Saturday, June 15, more than 5,000 people march in solemn funeral procession to honor Medgar Evers. Among them are Nobel laureate Ralph Bunche, Dr. King, SNCC workers from the Delta, and thousands of Blacks from all over the state.
An army of Jackson police, Mississippi State Troopers, and sheriff's deputies from many counties surround Collins funeral home. They are armed with rifles, shotguns, pistols, and snarling attack dogs. Their faces are filled with hate. When the procession ends, the crowd spontaneously starts singing freedom songs in violation of the "silence" agreement. Suddenly they surge down Farish street towards Capitol Street in a spontaneous, unplanned, unorganized march. Police invade a nearby building to arrest (yet again) Hunter Bear and Reverend Ed King who are trying to find a telephone.
The police phalanx manages to block the marchers just short of Capitol Street. With clubs beating heads bloody, dogs lunging on their leashes, they slowly force the huge throng back to the Black portion of Farish street. Firing pistols and rifles over the protesters' heads they drive them up Farish Street, shattering the 2nd-story windows of Black-owned businesses. Enraged by the vicious police violence, some angry Blacks retaliate by throwing rocks and bottles at the cops. As the troopers and deputies prepare to fire directly into the crowd, Department of Justice attorney John Doar places himself between the two opposing forces to avert a blood bath.
With Medgar dead, the national NAACP leaders and conservative ministers bypass the elected steering committee and take complete control of the Jackson movement. Over-ruling the Youth Council activists and a large segment of Jackson's Black community, they quash any resumption of mass direct action.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, President Kennedy and his brother Attorney General Robert Kennedy pressure Mayor Thompson to make some concessions to the NAACP/minister committee because otherwise they won't be able to forestal new protests. In return for a no-demonstrations pledge, the Mayor agrees to hire six "Negro Police" and eight Black crossing guards, promote eight Black sanitation workers, and he promises that the City Council will hear Negro grievances in the future. But he refuses to accept a biracial committee. Nor is there any agreement on the part of store-owners to desegregate lunch counters, rest rooms, or other public facilities, hire Blacks, or use courtesy titles such as "Mister" or "Miss" to Black customers.
On Tuesday, June 18, the son of a White Citizens Council leader forces another car into a head-on collision with an auto driven by Hunter Bear in an assassination attempt disguised as a road accident. Rev. Ed King is riding with him. Just before the crash, Jackson police who are tailing the two freedom fighters are observed talking at length on their police radio presumably reporting their position to set up the "accident." Both Hunter and King are hospitalized with serious injuries, but both survive.
Disheartened and disillusioned by the national NAACP's actions, those Youth Council students who continue their Freedom Movement activity turn to SNCC and CORE organizing projects outside of Jackson. Ed King remains active with COFO. Hunter Bear goes on to work for the Southern Converence Education Fund (SCEF) in North Carolina and elsewhere. Without the power of mass action, the boycott fails to desegregate white-only facilities or obtain jobs for Blacks in white-owned businesses. Segregation remains the law in Jackson until it is overturned by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and defacto segregation continues for long after. The NAACP's 1963 voter registration campaign fails, few voters are registered in Jackson until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is finally passed after two more years of heroic struggle, deep-root organizing, and mass action.
- The Jackson Movement substantially cracked the mantle of fear which had enveloped the Black community in Jackson and its environs.
Selma &mdash Breaking the Grip of Fear (Jan-June)
Selma, Alabama, is the seat of Dallas County. Selma is also the unofficial economic, political, and cultural capitol of the western portion of Alabama's Black Belt (similar in a sense to Greenwood, the political center of the Mississippi Delta). The County is 57% Black in 1961, but of the 15,000 Afro-Americans old enough to vote only 130 &mdash less than 1% &mdash are registered &mdash and some of those few actually live and work elsewhere. More than 80% of Dallas County Blacks live below the poverty line. Most of them work as sharcroppers, farm hands, maids, janitors, and day-laborers. Only 5% of Dallas County Blacks have a High School diploma, and more than 60% never had the chance to go to High School at all because neither Alabama nor the local school board see any need to educate the "hewers of wood and drawers of water." By contrast, 81% of Dallas County whites live above the poverty line and 90% have at least a High School education.
In the rural counties surrounding Selma, the Black majorities are even larger &mdash over 80% in some cases &mdash and in many of them not a single Afro-American is registered. Adjacent Wilcox County is 78% Black and has not had an Afro-American voter since the end of Reconstruction, neither has next door Lowndes County which is over 81% Black.
Judge James Hare dominates Dallas County politics, and the county is sometimes referred to as a "political plantation," with Judge Hare as master and Sheriff Jim Clark as whip-cracking overseer. Hare is a self-proclaimed "expert" on racial eugenics. He asserts that the Blacks living in Selma are descended from Ibo and Angolan slaves who (in his publicly-stated opinion) are genetically incapable of achieving an IQ of higher than 65. Clark is a brutal, hard-core racist, whose strategy for maintaining rigid segregation is to violently beat down and arrest anyone who dares question the established order. And through bribery, intimidation, and blackmail, Clark has built a network of Black snitches who inform on their neighbors.
In addition to his paid deputies, Clark relies on his Sheriff's posse of more than two hundred armed volunteers &mdash some of them members or supporters of racist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan. Possemen wear cheap badges issued by Clark, construction helmets, and khaki work clothes. They are armed with shotguns, pistols, and a variety of hardwood clubs including ax-handles. Originally formed after World War II to oppose labor unions, the posse's current mission is to defend white-supremecy and supress all forms of Black protest. The posse isn't limited to just Dallas County, Clark sends them on missions far and wide. In 1961 some were part of the mob that beat the Freedom Riders in Montgomery, others rushed to join the massive violence in Oxford Mississippi when James Meredith integrated 'Ole Miss in 1962, and Bull Connor called them in to help crack the heads of student protesters during the The Birmingham Campaign of 1963.
Supporting Hare and Clark is Selma's powerful White Citizens Council composed of bankers, businessmen, politicians, landlords, clergy, and other pillers of the community. The Council stands ever vigilant against any attempt to undermine the "Southern way of life" which they defend with economic terrorism &mdash firings, evictions, foreclosures, blacklists, and business boycotts. Together, Judge Hare, Sheriff Clark, the posse, the Citizens Council, and the snitches create an interlocking reign of economic, judicial, and violent terror that imprison Dallas County Blacks in an iron grip of fear.
But violence, jail, and economic terrorism cannot entirely supress the spirit of resistance in Selma. The Boynton family &mdash Sam, Amelia, and their son Bruce &mdash are not intimidated. While a student at Howard Law School, Bruce Boynton is arrested for using a white-only lunch counter at the Trailways bus station in Richmond VA. He files Boynton v. Virginia, the landmark Supreme Court case that overturns segregation in interstate travel and forms the legal basis for the Freedom Rides in 1961.
After the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v Board of Education school desegregation ruling and the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Alabama Attorney General retaliates against the NAACP by mounting a legal attack that cripples the organization and drives it underground for years. The Boyntons, Rev. L.L. Anderson of Tabernacle Baptist Church, J.L. Chestnut (Selma's first Black attorney), dental technician and SCLC Citizenship School teacher Marie Foster, educator James Gildersleeve, school teacher Margaret Moore, and others respond by reviving the old Dallas County Voter's League (DCVL) of which Sam is chosen president. Against the entrenched power of Hare, Clark, and the Citizens Council they make little progress as the fifties end and the sixties begin, but they refuse to surrender to despair or apathy.
At the turning of the year, Bernard and Colia Lafayette, a pair of newly-wed SNCC organizers arrive in Selma. Bernard is a veteran leader of the Nashville Student Movement, a Freedom Rider, and a Mississippi voter registration worker. Colia Lidell Lafayette is a student activist from Tougaloo college in Mississippi, founder and President of the NAACP's North Jackson Youth Council, and assistant to Medgar Evers. Their mission is to build the Freedom Movement in the Black Belt of Alabama. They know how dangerous the work will be. So too, do Department of Justice officials who warn them to give up any idea of registering voters in Selma Alabama and get out of town for their own safety.
By February of 1963, the Lafayettes are digging in deep, organizing on two fronts. With the help of the Boyntons and other DCVL stalwarts they hold small house meetings of the few adults who have the courage to risk associating with civil rights workers &mdash never more than half a dozen at a time so that the number of parked cars does not attract the notice of Clark's deputies. To avoid snitches, they are careful who they invite, slowly building their network, like hidden tree roots expanding beneath the surface.
They also begin working with local youth, students at the segregated R.B. Hudson High School and Selma University, a small Black Baptist college. As elsewhere in the South, young people without jobs or children to care for are more willing to run risks, and as young freedom fighters themselves, the Lafayettes have enormous prestige. High school student Charles (Chuck) Bonner describes meeting Bernard:
One day in February of 1963, when I was 16 years old, my good friend Cleophas Hobbs and I were walking, pushing my mother's green '54 Ford. I had custody of it, it had broken down and we were pushing it . It was a Sunday. And this young man walked up dressed in a yellow button down shirt, and a tie and a jacket, and he just started to push the car along with us. And simultaneously while we're pushing the car, he said he was Reverend Bernard LaFayette, he was from a seminary up in Tennessee. He had just moved to Selma, and he was from an organization called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, (SNCC) pronounced "Snick." Bernard, was not that much older than we were at the time, he was 22, we were 16.
We then started meeting at the Tabernacle Baptist Church. Bernard suggested that we go back to our high school and tell kids that he was in town. And organize the students. So my dear friend Bettie Mae Fikes was one of the first people we told, and another friend of ours, Evelyn, and another friend Terry Shaw. And they immediately got on board with what Cleo and I were talking about, and went to the Tabernacle Baptist Church and met Bernard. And Bernard taught us various freedom songs . Bettie then became one of the major leaders in the songs, because she was always the star singer in our high school. &mdash Charles Bonner. 
After four months of painstaking, clandestine work, the Lafayettes build enough support to risk coming out of the shadows. In May, Sam Boynton passes on of natural causes, and James Gildersleeve takes over as head of the DCVL. In conjunction with the Lafayettes, the League announces a "Boynton memorial service" at Tabernacle Church. Everyone knows that the service will also be a mass meeting for voter registration and the Freedom Movement. Afraid of white reprisals, the church deacons try to prevent it, but they are forced to relent when Rev. Anderson threatens to hold the service outside and publicly expose their fear.
As evening falls on May 14, Clark, his deputies, and the posse surround Tabernacle Baptist Church to threaten and photograph any who dare attend the meeting. The possemen in their semi-uniform of khaki work clothers, plastic construction helmets, cheap badges, and hate-filled faces, have pistols on their hips and long wooden clubs in their hands. It is an eerie scene as the flashing red and blue lights of the cop-cars illuminate the faces of 350 Black citizens who, with sublime courage, overcome their fear, face down the deputies, pass through the posse, and enter the church. But hundreds more who wish to honor Sam Boynton falter and turn back rather than run Clark's gauntlet or risk the inevitable Citizens Council retaliation.
Waving a court order from Judge Hare, Clark and some of his deputies invade the church to "prevent insurrection." But neither the audience nor the speakers are intimidated. Jim Forman of SNCC gives the main address, a strong speech, titled "The High Cost of Freedom." Furious at Clark's desecration of their sanctuary and the disrespect he shows to the memory of the much-admired Sam Boynton, the congregation defiantly cheers Forman's in-your-face castigation of Clark and the white power-structure. Meanwhile, outside, the deputies and possemen use their clubs to smash the taillights of parked cars. The next day, cops issue tickets to Blacks caught driving with a broken light.
More mass meetings follow. Bernard is arrested for "vagrancy." Colia participates in the Birmingham marches and is badly beaten by Bull Connor's cops. Pregnant with their first child, she temporarily returns home to Jackson MS to recover from internal injuries.
The Selma Times-Journal runs an article on Barnard, identifying who he is, what he is doing, and the exact address where he and Colia live. On the night of June 11, the Klan ambushes Bernard as he returns home from a mass meeting &mdash savagely clubing him in the head. As he falls to the ground with blood pouring across his face, a Black neighbor comes out with a shotgun, and the Klansmen drive off.
That same night Medgar Evers is assasinated in Jackson, and federal officials later tell the Lafayettes that the two attacks were part of a coordinated plan to murder Freedom Fighters in three states (the Klan couldn't locate the third target, Rev. Elton Cox, a CORE worker in Louisiana). Colia is still in Jackson when her friend and mentor Medgar Evers is killed and she helps lead the mass protests that follow.
Bernard is held overnight in the hospital and released the next morning. His face is covered with bruses, eyes swollen half shut, his clothes covered in blood. Rather than retreat home, rather than change into clean clothes, he walks the downtown streets, letting everyone &mdash Black and white &mdash know that he ain't running. His courage gives the lie to charges that SNCC organizers are "outsiders" who will stir up trouble and then flee at the first sign of danger. Courage and hope are the most contagious of all emotions, and from his example increasing numbers take heart. The mass meetings grow larger, and on registration day twice a month, in twos and threes, Blacks start going down to the Courthouse. They are not allowed to actually become voters, but their defiance begins to break the grip of fear that has imprisoned Selma for generations.