Upon picking up his last paycheck, Bull Connor remarked tearfully, "This is the worst day of my life. Organizers planned to flood the downtown area businesses with black people. [21] King's reputation had been hurt by the Albany campaign, and he was eager to improve it. Wilkins gave credit to other movements, such as the Freedom Rides, the integration of the University of Mississippi, and campaigns to end public school segregation. I have to go help them", and hung up the phone. It was "the chief watershed of the nonviolent movement in the United States. The Civil Rights Movement in the United States was a decades-long struggle by African Americans and their like-minded allies to end institutionalized racial discrimination, disenfranchisement and racial segregation in the United States. The eyes of the world are on Birmingham. [59] When they continued, Connor ordered the city's fire hoses, set at a level that would peel bark off a tree or separate bricks from mortar, to be turned on the children. By May 6, the jails were so full that Connor transformed the stockade at the state fairgrounds into a makeshift jail to hold protesters. [96] Alabama Governor George Wallace sent state troopers to assist Connor. To build morale and to recruit volunteers to go to jail, Ralph Abernathy spoke at a mass meeting of Birmingham's black citizens at the 6th Avenue Baptist Church: "The eyes of the world are on Birmingham tonight. [125] A study of the Watts riots concluded, "The 'rules of the game' in race relations were permanently changed in Birmingham. [55] Several days later, Jacqueline Kennedy called Coretta Scott King to express her concern for King while he was incarcerated.[23]. White religious leaders denounced King and the other organizers, saying that "a cause should be pressed in the courts and the negotiations among local leaders, and not in the streets". Birmingham, JFK, and the Civil Rights Act of 1963: Implications For Elite Theory. In the spring of 1963, before Easter, the Birmingham boycott intensified during the second-busiest shopping season of the year. If black shoppers were found in these stores, organizers confronted them and shamed them into participating in the boycott. President John F. Kennedy later said of him, "The Civil Rights Movement should thank God for Bull Connor. Those in jail would be released on bond or their own recognizance. [123] On June 12, 1963, Evers was fatally shot outside his home. [16] A few years later, Birmingham's black population began to organize to effect change. If you win in Birmingham, as Birmingham goes, so goes the nation. The unemployment rate for black people was two and a half times higher than for white people. [19] Looking for outside help, Shuttlesworth invited Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC to Birmingham, saying, "If you come to Birmingham, you will not only gain prestige, but really shake the country. [119], Four months after the Birmingham campaign settlement, someone bombed the house of NAACP attorney Arthur Shores, injuring his wife in the attack. The Negro Motorist Green Book Exhibition “The Negro Motorist Green Book” exhibition debuts at the National Civil Rights Museum located at the Lorraine Motel which is not only the historic site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but it is also one of the few Green Book sites still remaining. [64] Demonstrators were given instructions to march to the downtown area, to meet with the Mayor, and integrate the chosen buildings. Boys' shirts were ripped off, and girls were pushed over the tops of cars by the force of the water. Bevel and the organizers knew that high school students were a more cohesive group; they had been together as classmates since kindergarten. City parks and golf courses were opened again to black and white citizens. The mood was compared to that of a school picnic. She rolled down the window and shouted to the children, "I'm with you all the way! Connor, who had run for several elected offices in the months leading up to the campaign, had lost all but the race for Public Safety Commissioner. [36][37], Martin Luther King Jr.'s presence in Birmingham was not welcomed by all in the black community. "[46] King promised a protest every day until "peaceful equality had been assured" and expressed doubt that the new mayor would ever voluntarily desegregate the city. The Birmingham campaign inspired the Civil Rights Movement in other parts of the South. "[72] Although Wyatt Tee Walker was initially against the use of children in the demonstrations, he responded to criticism by saying, "Negro children will get a better education in five days in jail than in five months in a segregated school. [62] Flyers were distributed in black schools and neighborhoods that said, "Fight for freedom first then go to school" and "It's up to you to free our teachers, our parents, yourself, and our country."[63]. (2008). [11], In addition, Birmingham's economy was stagnating as the city was shifting from blue collar to white collar jobs. Shuttlesworth and King had announced that desegregation would take place 90 days from May 15. Described by historian Henry Hampton as a "morass", the Albany movement lost momentum and stalled. Former NAACP Branch Secretary Rosa Parks’ refusal to yield her seat to a white man sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the modern civil rights movement. [87] The car of Fannie Flagg, a local television personality and recent Miss Alabama finalist, was surrounded by teenagers who recognized her. [14] Black churches in which civil rights were discussed became specific targets for attack. [14] FBI informant Gary Thomas Rowe was hired to infiltrate the KKK and monitor their activities and plans. [74] Connor allowed white spectators to push forward, shouting, "Let those people come forward, sergeant. [53], Twenty-four hours after his arrest, King was allowed to see local attorneys from the SCLC. Mayor Boutwell appointed a biracial committee to discuss further changes. The rift between the businessmen and the politicians became clear when business leaders admitted they could not guarantee the protesters' release from jail. When local business and governmental leaders resisted the boycott, SCLC agreed to assist. The confrontation between protesters and police was a product of the direct action campaign known as Project C. Project C—for confrontation—challenged unfair laws that were designed to limit freedoms of African Americans and ensure racial inequality. I have never seen anything like it. When the students crouched or fell, the blasts of water rolled them down the asphalt streets and concrete sidewalks. James Bevel wove in and out of the crowds warning them, "If any cops get hurt, we're going to lose this fight. Organizers believed their phones were tapped, so to prevent their plans from being leaked and perhaps influencing the mayoral election, they used code words for demonstrations. Smaller groups of decoys were set out to distract police attention from activities at the 16th Street Baptist Church. After being filibustered for 75 days by "diehard southerners" in Congress, it was passed into law in 1964 and signed by President Lyndon Johnson. When Martin Luther King Jr. called his wife, their conversation was brief and guarded; he correctly assumed that his phones were tapped. This resulted in over a thousand arrests, and, as the jails and holding areas filled with arrested students, the Birmingham Police Department, led by Eugene "Bull" Connor, used high-pressure water hoses and police attack dogs on the children and adult bystanders. The essay was a culmination of many of King's ideas, which he had touched on in earlier writings. King and the SCLC were criticized by some for ending the campaign with promises that were too vague and "settling for a lot less than even moderate demands". We had to tell people, say look: if you go downtown and buy something, you're going to have to answer to us. When layoffs were necessary, black employees were often the first to go. To disperse them, Connor ordered police to use German shepherd dogs to keep them in line. [29], The SCLC decided that economic pressure on Birmingham businesses would be more effective than pressure on politicians, a lesson learned in Albany as few black citizens were registered to vote in 1962. Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC drew both criticism and praise for allowing children to participate and put themselves in harm's way. Bobby Kennedy is looking here at Birmingham, the United States Congress is looking at Birmingham. [61], Bevel and the SCLC held workshops to help students overcome their fear of dogs and jails. Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, however, disagreed that the Birmingham campaign was the primary force behind the Civil Rights Act. Shuttlesworth recalled a woman whose $15 hat ($130 in 2021) was destroyed by boycott enforcers. The enormous crowd gathers around the Reflecting Pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument for the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. But for Birmingham: The Local and National Movements in the Civil Rights Struggle. Some white spectators at a sit-in at a Woolworth's lunch counter spat upon the participants. [124] ACMHR vice president Abraham Woods claimed that the rioting in Birmingham set a precedent for the "Burn, baby, burn" mindset, a cry used in later civic unrest in the Watts Riots, the 12th Street riots in Detroit, and other American cities in the 1960s. [6] Although the city's population of almost 350,000 was 60% white and 40% black,[7] Birmingham had no black police officers, firefighters, sales clerks in department stores, bus drivers, bank tellers, or store cashiers. He surveyed the segregated lunch counters of department stores, and listed federal buildings as secondary targets should police block the protesters' entrance into primary targets such as stores, libraries, and all-white churches. In Albany, they concentrated on the desegregation of the city as a whole. [102] Commissioner Connor and the outgoing mayor condemned the resolution.[103]. "[31], Turmoil in the mayor's office also weakened the Birmingham city government in its opposition to the campaign. [122] In addition, Rowe and several other Klansmen also partook in the killing of Civil Rights activist Viola Liuzzo on March 25, 1965, in Lowndes County, Georgia after the Selma to Montgomery march.[120][121]. [57] In addition, although Connor had used police dogs to assist in the arrest of demonstrators, this did not attract the media attention that organizers had hoped for. Streets, sidewalks, stores, and buildings were overwhelmed with more than 3,000 protesters. National business owners pressed the Kennedy administration to intervene. Sort By: [56] King's arrest attracted national attention, including that of corporate officers of retail chains with stores in downtown Birmingham. When one black woman entered Loveman's department store to buy her children Easter shoes, a white saleswoman said to her, "Negro, ain't you ashamed of yourself, your people out there on the street getting put in jail and you in here spending money and I'm not going to sell you any, you'll have to go some other place. [120][121] Rowe was involved, along with the Birmingham Police, with the KKK attacks on the Freedom Riders, led by Fred Shuttlesworth, in Anniston, Alabama on May 14, 1961. That evening he declared at a mass meeting, "I have been inspired and moved by today. He had been organizing demonstrations similar to those in Birmingham to pressure Jackson's city government. [97], No business of any kind was being conducted downtown. On September 15, 1963, Birmingham again earned international attention when Ku Klux Klan members bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church on a Sunday morning and killed four young girls. Also visible throughout the city are African American institutions and businesses that knit together Birmingham’s black community and laid a critical foundation for the fight for civil and political rights. [115] President Kennedy's administration drew up the Civil Rights Act bill. "[20], King and the SCLC had recently been involved in a campaign to desegregate the city of Albany, Georgia, but did not see the results they had anticipated. ISBN 0-631-22044-5; Eskew, Glenn (1997). Photograph: Getty Images In the US in May, events in Birmingham were transformative. Two days after King and Shuttlesworth announced the settlement in Birmingham, Medgar Evers of the NAACP in Jackson, Mississippi demanded a biracial committee to address concerns there. Isserman, Maurice, Kazin, Michael. Attorney General Robert Kennedy prepared to activate the Alabama National Guard and notified the Second Infantry Division from Fort Benning, Georgia that it might be deployed to Birmingham. Are you ready, are you ready to make the challenge? Flagg worked at Channel 6 on the morning show, and after asking her producers why the show was not covering the demonstrations, she received orders never to mention them on air. When the girls joined, however, the boys were close behind. Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images. They clapped and laughed while being arrested and awaiting transport to jail. I want 'em to see the dogs work. It responded to eight politically moderate white clergymen who accused King of agitating local residents and not giving the incoming mayor a chance to make any changes. SNYC was forced out in 1949, leaving behind a Black population that thus had some experience of civil rights organizing. Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? [9] Racial segregation of public and commercial facilities throughout Jefferson County was legally required, covered all aspects of life, and was rigidly enforced. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin ordered the removal of a monument in Linn Park, stating the fine was less costly than continued civil unrest. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BRCI) is a modern museum that serves as a connection to the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, a collection of sites important to the Civil Rights Movement. [13] Fifty unsolved racially motivated bombings between 1945 and 1962 had earned the city the nickname "Bombingham". "[22] He headed the planning of what he called Project C, which stood for "confrontation". [49] In a press release they explained, "We are now confronted with recalcitrant forces in the Deep South that will use the courts to perpetuate the unjust and illegal systems of racial separation". [59] D Day called for students from Birmingham elementary schools and high schools as well as nearby Miles College to take part in the demonstrations. James Bevel borrowed a bullhorn from the police and shouted, "Everybody get off this corner. Bevel found girls more receptive to his ideas because they had less experience as victims of white violence. Urged by Kennedy, the United Auto Workers, National Maritime Union, United Steelworkers Union, and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) raised $237,000 in bail money ($1,980,000 in 2021) to free the demonstrators. "[81] The Washington Post editorialized, "The spectacle in Birmingham ... must excite the sympathy of the rest of the country for the decent, just, and reasonable citizens of the community, who have so recently demonstrated at the polls their lack of support for the very policies that have produced the Birmingham riots. Black secretaries could not work for white professionals. [18] After Shuttlesworth was arrested and jailed for violating the city's segregation rules in 1962, he sent a petition to Mayor Art Hanes' office asking that public facilities be desegregated. He recruited girls who were school leaders and boys who were athletes. "[88], Birmingham's fire department refused orders from Connor to turn the hoses on demonstrators again,[89] and waded through the basement of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church to clean up water from earlier fire-hose flooding. [76] Black parents and adults who were observing cheered on the marching students, but when the hoses were turned on, bystanders began to throw rocks and bottles at the police. "[13] In 1961, Connor delayed sending police to intervene when Freedom Riders were beaten by local mobs. [107], The reputation of Martin Luther King Jr. soared after the protests in Birmingham, and he was lauded by many as a hero. (2001). However, not enough people were arrested to affect the functioning of the city and the wisdom of the plans were being questioned in the black community. The Rev. Please contact the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute at the number above for general questions about Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. [32] The Citizens for Progress was backed by the Chamber of Commerce and other white professionals in the city, and their tactics were successful. [118] Violence continued to plague the city, however. The struggle for equality is illustrated by places like the A.G. Gaston Motel, located throughout Birmingham, where civil rights activists organized, protested, and clashed with segregationists. They caused downtown business to decline by as much as 40 percent, which attracted attention from Chamber of Commerce president Sidney Smyer, who commented that the "racial incidents have given us a black eye that we'll be a long time trying to forget". White, Marjorie, Manis, Andrew, eds. He could have been released on bail at any time, and jail administrators wished him to be released as soon as possible to avoid the media attention while King was in custody. When Coretta Scott King did not hear from her husband, she called Walker and he suggested that she call President Kennedy directly. [39], The plan called for direct nonviolent action to attract media attention to "the biggest and baddest city of the South". He had, however, previously promised to lead the marchers to jail in solidarity, but hesitated as the planned date arrived. [23] The Soviet Union devoted up to 25 percent of its news broadcast to the demonstrations, sending much of it to Africa, where Soviet and U.S. interests clashed. Please contact the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute at the number above for general questions about Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. "[126] Walker called the Birmingham campaign and the Selma marches "Siamese twins" joining to "kill segregation ... and bury the body". [29] The police harassed religious leaders and protest organizers by ticketing cars parked at mass meetings and entering the meetings in plainclothes to take notes. Peter Lang Publishing. Fred Shuttlesworth called the injunction a "flagrant denial of our constitutional rights" and organizers prepared to defy the order. On May 10, Fred Shuttlesworth and Martin Luther King Jr. told reporters that they had an agreement from the City of Birmingham to desegregate lunch counters, restrooms, drinking fountains and fitting rooms within 90 days, and to hire black people in stores as salesmen and clerks. During a kind of truce, protesters went home. "[82] President Kennedy sent Assistant Attorney General Burke Marshall to Birmingham to help negotiate a truce. Political leaders held fast, however. Using scraps of paper given to him by a janitor, notes written on the margins of a newspaper, and later a legal pad given to him by SCLC attorneys, King wrote his essay "Letter from Birmingham Jail". 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