The Birmingham Campaign
In April 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the ACMHR led a movement that awakened America to the issues of segregation. This movement was named Project C, but it became better known as The Birmingham Campaign.
The campaign consisted of daily peaceful demonstrations like kneel-ins at churches, lunch counter sit-ins at local establishments, boycotts on shop owners, and marches to encourage voters to seek change.
Although the movement was peaceful, demonstrators were met with violence. Police used dogs that attacked protestors, and firemen used high pressure-hoses to spray them down. Men, women, adults and children were all on the end of these disturbing acts during the following months.
Birmingham, Alabama, was notorious for its segregation in the late 50s and early 60s. So at Talladega College, Fred Shuttlesworth, Andrew Young, and Martin Luther King Jr decided to use Birmingham as the site of their anti-segregation campaign.
The group’s purpose included the following mandates for the black community:
- The right to vote
- Equal Education
- The right to work where you shop
- The removal of segregation signage
As well as the show of violence from the police and firemen, during the Christmas of 1956, the KKK bombed one of Shuttleworth’s churches in Alabama . He would later face multiple murder attempts from white supremacists, showing the urgency of the need for change, especially in this area of the southern United States.
Shuttlesworth was the founder of the ACMHR (Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights), and King was the head of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) in 1963.
During the Easter high-shopping season of 1963, The Birmingham Campaign sought to pressure merchants against segregation in Birmingham, Alabama, through nonviolent protests and boycotts.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. got arrested on April 16th, 1963. By this time, he was joining nearly 500 others jailed for protesting in The Birmingham Campaign.
Dr. King wrote the famous document in jail, the Letter from the Birmingham Jail.
Dr. King writes about nonviolent disobedience in this history-changing letter and how laws do not always dictate morality. Over five and a half pages, Martin Luther King Jr., explains why he is in prison and why America requires change.
Four days after writing and publishing the Letter from the Birmingham Jail, Dr. King got released from prison alongside some other protestors. The original document is now housed at Samford University.
From May 2nd to May 5th, 1963, about six weeks after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. got released from prison, thousands of school-aged children left their Birmingham, Alabama classrooms in protest of racial segregation in the education system. This event, inspired by The Birmingham Campaign, is called The Children’s Crusade.
Dr. King Jr. would go on to speak at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, in August 1963 and give his “I Have A Dream” speech.
Unfortunately, the anti-segregation efforts weren’t met without resistance. In September 1963, the KKK bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, leaving four young girls dead.
However, the efforts of The Birmingham Campaign were well-rewarded in 1964 when the United States Congress passed The Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act prohibited discrimination based on someone’s sex, national origin, race, religion, or skin color.
The Birmingham Campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, helped Shuttlesworth, Young, and Dr. King set the stage and get media attention about the civil rights movement, paving the way for Congress to vote in favor of The Civil Rights Act of 1964.