OldSoul : The “Children’s Crusade” Birmingham, Alabama May 2-5 1963

OldSoul

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The “Children’s Crusade” Birmingham, Alabama May 2-5 1963
The 1963 campaign to desegregate Birmingham, Alabama, generated national publicity and federal action because of the violent response by local authorities and the decision by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to recruit children for demonstrations. The “Children’s Crusade” added a new dynamic to the struggle in Birmingham and was a major factor in the success of the campaign.
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On 2 May, more than a thousand African American students skipped their classes and gathered at Sixth Street Baptist Church to march to downtown Birmingham. As they approached police lines, hundreds were arrested and carried off to jail in paddy wagons and school buses.
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When hundreds more young people gathered the following day for another march, commissioner Bull Connor directed the local police and fire departments to use force to halt the demonstration. Images of children being blasted by high-pressure fire hoses, clubbed by police officers, and attacked by police dogs appeared on television and in newspapers and triggered outrage throughout the world.
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After intervention from the U. S. Department of Justice, the Birmingham campaign ended on 10 May when the SCLC and local officials reached an agreement in which the city promised to desegregate downtown stores and release all protestors from jail if the SCLC would end the boycotts and demonstrations. A week and a half later, the Birmingham board of education announced that all students who participated in the demonstrations would be either suspended or expelled. The SCLC and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) immediately took the issue to the local federal district court, where the judge upheld the ruling. On 22 May, the same day as the initial ruling, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision and condemned the board of education for its actions.
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The success in Birmingham provided momentum for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and helped pave the way for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_childrens_crusade/
 

Kadijah

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Excerpt from Birmingham:

SCLC organizers started to plan "D Day." Unlike the other demonstrations, all of the D Day demonstrators would be children. James Bevel explained why the SCLC turned to children as demonstrators:Most adults have bills to pay -- house notes, rents, car notes, utility bills -- but the young people . . . are not hooked with all those responsibilities. A boy from high school has the same effect in terms of being in jail, in terms of putting pressure on the city, as his father, and yet there's no economic threat to the family, because the father is still on the job." [37]

On May 2, children, ranging in age from six to eighteen, gathered in Kelly Ingram Park, across the street from Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Around 1:00, fifty teenagers left the church and headed for downtown, singing "We Shall Overcome." They were arrested and placed in police vans. Another group left the church, and they were also put in vans. Another group left, and another. Soon the police began stuffing the protesters in school buses because there were no more vans. Three hours later, there were 959 children in jail. The jails were absolutely packed.

The next day, over a thousand more children stayed out of school and went to Kelly Ingram Park. Bull Connor was determined not to let them get downtown, but he had no space left in his jails. He brought firefighters out and ordered them to turn hoses on the children. Most ran away, but one group refused to budge. The firefighters turned even more powerful hoses on them, hoses that shot streams of water strong enough to break bones. The force of the water rolled the protesters down the street. In addition, Connor had mobilized K-9 forces, who attacked protesters trying to enter the church. Pictures of the confrontation between the children and the police shocked the nation. The entire country was watching Birmingham.

The demonstrations escalated. Because the jails were filled, the police did not know what to do. Finally, the Birmingham business community, fearing damage to downtown stores, agreed to integrate lunch counters and hire more blacks, over the objections of city officials. King had gotten his much-needed victory.


http://www.watson.org/~lisa/blackhistory/civilrights-55-65/birming.html
 

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