Skip to comments.TODAY IN HISTORY: TWO BOMBINGS AND A RIOT IN BIRMINGHAM (MAY 12, 1963)
Posted on 05/12/2013 5:40:40 AM PDT by Nextrush
The campaign of civil disobedience in Birmingham ended with a deal between white business leaders (77 in all) and black leaders to desegregate the city and hire more black employees in private businesses and city government alike.
On the afternoon of Friday May 10th Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Dr. Martin Luther King appeared with other black leadership to announce the deal and a few hours later white business leader Sidney Smyer released a statement acknowledging the deal.
White leaders kept a low profile fearing retaliation.
The Ku Klux Klan had kept quiet during the protests in Birmingham, but they had established a reputation for beatings, shootings and bombings of their ememies.
It was at 10:45 pm Saturday night May 11th when bombs exploded at the suburban Birmingham parsonage of Reverend A.D. King, brother of MLK. The A.D. King family escaped unharmed.
But a black crowd gathered that was talking revenge against whites including the police and firemen who responded to the explosion. Rev. A.D. King calmed the crowd and led them in song.
But now a second powerful explosion reverberated from the city. The Gaston Motel, where Martin Luther King had a room from where he directed the protests of recent weeks, was targeted. Dr. King's room itself was the center of the blast. King was away in Atlanta, but four others at the motel were injured.
Thousands of blacks came out into the streets with rocks flying at the police, a car overturned and burned, storefront windows were smashed. A policemen was wounded by a knife and another bloodied in the head. A grocery store was torched.
This kind of riot scene would be repeated in city after city throughout the United States in the years to come.
Birmingham police kept their police lines back while black preachers worked to calm the crowd. Reverend A.D. King came into the area at 1:30 am and addressed the crowd by megaphone saying "You are hurting us! You are not helping. Now won't you please clear this park..."
As King continued to move around addressing crowds to clear the area lawmen from outside the city suddenly showed up.
Alabama state law enforcement, led by state troopers and their commander Colonel Al Lingo, arrived on the scene.
They came under orders from Governor George Wallace and charged towards anyone in their path beating them with rifle butts and clubs.
Now the black crowds came back out into the streets with more rage. Additional buildings were burned, cars destroyed and dozens were injured.
The rioting finally ended at dawn Sunday.
The White House was in crisis mode during the day. President John Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Army Chief of Staff General Earle Wheeler were among those gathered by Sunday afternoon.
JFK campaigned successfully for white southern votes in 1960 by promising not to use federal troops to force integration like Eisenhower had done at Little Rock in 1957. He had already clearly broken the promise the year before deploying 20-thousand military personnel to northern Mississippi to force James Meredith's enrollment at the University of Mississippi.
There was concern expressed that the rioting in Birmingham could spread to other cities.
Kennedy wanted to keep the integration agreement from falling apart and decided in the end to move troops closer to Birmingham from bases at Fort Benning, Georgia and Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
He wouldn't appear to be taking sides but would be sending a message to anyone thinking of using violence in Birmingham to undermine the integration agreement.
President Kennedy appeared before the cameras at about 9 pm in the evening on Sunday May 12th to speak about the situation in Birmingham.
This is the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the racial conflict of the 1960’s.
The official history revolves around the non-violent civil disobedience led by Martin Luther King, but the protests and police reaction to them in Birmingham stirred up a spirit of protest, rebellion and violence nationwide.
The cities of this country were deeply affected by it in the short term and the long term as we are now seeing.
Does non-violent civil disobedience lead to violent civil disobedience????
People today want to resist the present government. Be careful because you might give them what they want.