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Civil Rights, 1963

Birmingham, Alabama

On April 3, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., arrived in Birmingham and immediately began a campaign for equal rights for blacks. While King led peaceful demonstrations to emphasize his and other blacks' demands, Birmingham Police Commissioner Theophilus Eugene Connor vowed to fill the jails with blacks. As the demonstrations increased so, too, did the violence, and the police often used police dogs to "subdue" the demonstrators. Before the month ended, more than 400 blacks, including Dr. King and one of his top aides, had been arrested.

Dr. King and another minister lead marchers for civil rights in Birmingham.
Dr. King leads marchers in Birmingham

Despite the violence and arrests in April, civil rights demonstrations continued into May. Unfortunately, so too did the violence. The police used high-pressure fire hoses, clubs, and police dogs on the demonstrators, who now included hundreds of school children. Demonstrators, in turn, pelted the police with rocks. An estimated 1,200 law enforcement officers had arrested more more than 2,500 demonstrators by the time a truce was announced on May 10.

Police and police dogs "greet" demonstrators.
police dogs against Birmingham demonstrators

Blacks turn their backs as water from fire hoses is directed atthem during a demonstration.
Birmingham demonstration

On May 11, two bombings ended the truce: one destroyed the home of the Reverend A. D. King (Martin Luther King's brother); the other seriously damaged the Gaston Motel, headquarters of the demonstrators. The bombings sparked riots by blacks, which in turn led Governor Wallace to dispatch hundreds of state troopers to Birmingham.

On May 20, the Birmingham Board of Education expelled or suspended 1,081 black students who had taken part in the demonstrators. Two days later, however, a Federal Circuit Court Judge ordered the Board of Education to reinstate the students, all of whom subsequently returned to their respective schools. By the end of May, the police and state troopers had restored peace, Police Chief Connor had been removed from office, and segregationist Mayor Arthur Hanes had been replaced by moderate Albert Boutwell.

On the morning of September 15, while Sunday School services were in progress, a dynamite bomb destroyed part of the 16th Street Baptist Church; four black girls, three of them 14 years old and one 11, were killed. When news of the bombing reached the community, riots erupted. Gunfire was heard throughout the city, some buildings were set ablaze, and two black boys, 14 and 13 years old, were killed. A thousand law enforcement officers were put on patrol, and National Guardsmen were alerted. The violence finally subsided after President John F. Kennedy appointed Kenneth Royall, former Secretary of the Army, and Earl "Red" Blaik, former football coach at West Point, as his personal emissaries to help the city overcome an atmosphere of fear and suspicion.

Three women are overcome with grief during the funeral for three of the girls killed in the church bombing.
funeral for bombing victims

William L. Moore

In April 1963, William L. Moore, a Baltimore, Mayland, postman and a fervent desegregationist, decided to dramatize the blacks' struggle for equal rights by walking from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi, while carrying a sign declaring "Equal Rights for All -- Mississippi or Bust." On April 23, the 23-year-old white man was found murdered near Attalla, Alabama. President Kennedy denounced the crime, as did Alabama Governor George C. Wallace, a staunch segregationist. A white grocer was subsequently charged with the slaying, but a grand jury declined to indict him.

March on Washington

On August 28, more than 200,000 blacks and whites gathered at the Washington Monument and then marched to the Lincoln Memorial. The highlight of the gathering was a speech by Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr., in which he declared: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin,but by the content of their character."

Some of the tens of thousands who "marched on Washington."
March on Washington

A clergyman distributes pamphlets during the march.
March on Washington

School Desegregation

About 10,000 civil rights demonstrators march to the Board of Education offices in Chicago, Illinois, on October 22, following a boycott of the public schools by more than 224,000 students.
Chicago school boycott protest

Court Rulings

On May 20, the Supreme Court ruled that a city with a policy of segregation could not prosecute blacks for seeking service in privately owned stores.

In the Year 1963
President John F. Kennedy
George C. Wallace

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