THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT (3): THE REPERCUSSIONS OF BIRMINGHAM

In document Political movements : three case studies of protest (Page 97-99)

Introduction

The demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, during the spring of 1963, highlighted a new phase in the civil rights movement. First, they were characterized by their inclusion of demands that went beyond the specific, limited objective of equal access to public accommodation. The suggested package deal included demands for the desegregation of lunch counter and public facilities, fair hiring practices, and complete school integration. Secondly, the class composition of the activists included more members of the working class than in earlier phases of the movement. Thirdly, Birmingham created more social disruption and dislocation than the movement had seen to date. It included acts of

violence from Negro and white sides; non-violent direct action precipitated police violence which, instead of going unanswered, was met by violence from unorganized Negro elements.

In this chapter, I shall discuss and analyze: (1) the demonstrations in the South which preceded the demonstrations at Birmingham; (2) the demonstrations at Birmingham in the spring of 1963; (3) the introduction of federal civil rights legislation in response to the new demonstrations; and (4) the demands of the March on Washington for major measures of

reform. In particular, I shall look at the respective roles played by non-violence, latent violence,and violence.

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T em poral P h a se s

E v e n ts B e fo re Birmingham. The s i t - i n s and th e Freedom R id es i n s p i r e d

d a i l y , d i r e c t a c t i o n p r o t e s t s th r o u g h o u t a l l o f th e s o u th e r n s t a t e s . A b r i e f c a t a lo g u e o f e v e n ts w ould in c l u d e w a d e -in s a t p u b l i c b e a c h e s i n B i l o x i , M i s s i s s i p p i , and S av an n ah , G e o r g ia ; c o u rtro o m s i t - i n s i n A n n is to n , A labam a; t h e a t r e and cin em a s t a n d - i n s i n C hapel H i l l , N o rth C a r o l i n a , N a s h v i l l e , C h a tta n o o g a , and K n o x v ill e , T e n n e s s e e , and

T a l l a h a s s e e , F l o r i d a ; sw im -in s a t p o o ls i n J a c k s o n v i l l e and F o r t L a u d e r d a le , F l o r i d a , L y n ch b u ry , V i r g i n i a , and C a ir o , I l l i n o i s ; b e n c h -

u

i n s i n p a r k s i n J a c k s o n , M i s s i s s i p p i ; s k a t e - i n s a t r i n k s i n L o jL s v ille , K e n tu c k y .^

I n B aton R ouge, L o u i s i a n a , s t u d e n t s a t S o u th e rn U n iv e r s it y boy­ c o t t e d c l a s s e s i n p r o t e s t o v e r th e s u s p e n s io n o f f o r t y - e i g h t s tu d e n t s

2

who had p a r t i c i p a t e d i n a n t i - s e g r e g a t i o n d e m o n s tr a tio n s . In J a c k s o n , M i s s i s s i p p i , and Macon, G e o r g ia , b u s e s w ere b o y c o tte d i n p r o t e s t o v e r

3

s e g r e g a t e d s e a t i n g r e g u l a t i o n s . I n N a s h v i l l e , T e n n e s s e e , N eg ro es con­ d u c te d an a l l n i g h t s i t - i n a t p o l i c e h e a d q u a r te r s i n p r o t e s t o v e r p o l i c e

4

b r u t a l i t y e v id e n c e d d u r in g r a c i a l c l a s h e s i n th e c i t y . By th e b e g in n in g o f 1 9 6 1 , t h e r e had b een o v e r two h u n d re d k n e e l - i n s a t w h ite c h u rc h e s i n

th e S o u th .* 2 3 4 5

^ The e v e n ts a r e t a b u l a t e d from th e p a g e s o f th e HIT, r e p o r t s o f CORE an d SNCC, and r e p o r t s o f th e S o u th e rn R e g io n a l C o u n c il.

2 NIT;, F eb. 1 , 1 9 6 2 , p . 1 ; F eb . 2 , 1 9 6 2 , p .2 0 .

3 I b i d . , A pr. 2 0 , 1 9 6 1 , p .1 2 ; F e b .1 3 , 1 9 6 2 , p . 3 ; M ar. 4 , 1 9 6 2 , p . 7 3.

4 I b i d . , Aug. 8 , 1961, p . 1 9 .

Individuals and groups alike struck out at segregation. Dinah Washington, the Negro blues singer, demanded a boycott on the sale of her records in southern states which sanctioned segregation.6 Floyd Patterson was given a guarantee against segregated seating in his title boxing match in Miami, Florida.7 **10 The Metropolitan Opera House announced

g

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