Sculpture dedicated to the Foot Soldiers of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement. Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham, Alabama
In the spring of 1963, the leadership of the SCLC and SNCC were determined to move on Birmingham, AL, viewed as the most dangerous city in Alabama (in part because it was the power base of Bull Connor). There were concerns that the Movement had stalled. Less than a year earlier, attempts had been made to desegregate facilities in Albany, GA, but the Albany police chief, Laurie Pritchett, had stymied their efforts at gaining national attention by meeting non-violent direct action with his own tactics of non-violence. Although protesters had been arrested, violence was kept at a minimum, and protesters were dispersed to jails throughout Georgia, depriving them of the ability to continue their protests in the jails. The leadership knew that Bull Connor, Birmingham’s racist Commissioner of Public Safety, would show no such restraint. If national attention was to be gained, and if the Kennedy Administration was to be pushed into action, it would take a major, but dangerous, push in Birmingham.
This past weekend the Rev. Dr. William Barber spoke at Riverside Church in NYC as the kickoff of the church’s yearlong Beyond the Dream: Living King’s Legacy, an”education and action initiative to create a more just and peaceful society.” April 4th is the fiftieth anniversary of King’s Riverside speech. (The text of Dr. King’s speech can be found here: Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.) Basket attended the service, and what follows is his report: