Skip to comments.IT HAPPENED NOW 50 YEARS AGO (BIRMINGHAM)
Posted on 05/08/2013 5:28:05 AM PDT by Nextrush
When the "Senior Citizens Committee" of Birmingham got together late on Tuesday May 7th the business leaders who had defeated Bull Connor felt defeated by the civil rights protests and the demands for integration in the city.
At least one of them suggested asking Governor George Wallace for a martial law declaration.
But the pressure was on for a negotiated solution. The official line from the Kennedy Administration was that the President was "monitoring" the situation in Birmingham but in reality his people were leaning on the business leaders and Dr. Martin Luther King for a negotiated solution.
The negotiations went well into the night and ended early on the morning of Wednesday May 8th with agreement on most points with the sticking point being the release of more than 2,000 people jailed in the protests.
By the middle of Wednesday morning Dr. King thought it was appropriate to call a one-day truce in demonstrations. He got flak from local leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth who felt like King was caving in.
Shuttlesworth rushed from his hospital bed (he had been injured by a water cannon the day before) to have a shouting match with King, a blow by blow description of the argrument being relayed to the White House over a telephone.
King settled the differences and Shuttlesworth was put in front of over 150 reporters from all over the world to announce the truce along with MLK.
Now President Kennedy had his "peace is at hand" moment walking before the cameras with a statement opening: "Good afternoon. I'm gratified to note the progress in efforts by white and Negro citizens to end an ugly situation in Birmingham, Alabama,"
Meanwhile, Alabama state troopers were drilling in the city and the starting point for demonstrations, Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, was padlocked.
Then a court hearing was held on MLK's appeal of his arrest several weeks before, with the judge raising bail to 25-hundred dollars. King and Reverend Ralph Abernathy said they were unable and unwilling to pay. The guards took them to jail.
The Kennedy Adminstration worked into the night to defuse the drama with Attorney General Robert Kennedy calling Harry Belafonte in New York to send bail money. Belafonte got the money but wouldn't send it unless there was comnfirmation King wanted to be released.
Eventually the Kennedy Adminstration got local black businessman A.G. Gaston to bail an angry MLK out of jail. Dr. King felt it was to the movement's advantage that he stay in jail but the Kennedy Administration had undermined him.
Now King told reporters that a settlement must be reached by 11 Thursday morning or there would be the largest demonstration yet.
Does the GOP treat conservatives who want smaller government, no new taxes, no amnesty and so on that way?
What is often left out of civil rights history today is the role American Jews played in the movement. They organized, canvased, marched, bled and died. Having experienced hate and oppression for more than a millennium, the Jews believed it was their obligation to stand with the Blacks.
This day 50 years ago was the day a delegation of rabbis arrived in Birmingham and actually participated in the mass meeting in a church during the evening.
There were a whole bunch of others in town that week from Joan Baez to David Dellinger and other left-wing figures we associate with the anti-war movement
MLK would join the anti-war cause himself later on.