The youngest daughter of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. returned Tuesday to the place in Birmingham where her father penned his famous “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”, one the most significant documents generated during the turbulent civil rights movement of the 1960s.
The experience for Elder Bernice King was much different from what her father endured 50 years ago, as he was beaten and locked up while leading the challenge to Birmingham’s harsh segregation laws.
“Back then, the city of Birmingham tried to run my daddy out of town, and the governor didn’t want my daddy in Alabama, but today I have been welcomed,” King said, sharing the podium with Gov. Robert Bentley and with Mayor William. The three helped unveil a historic marker in front of the jail. And Tuesday night, King participated in a panel discussion on the letter, held at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church.
In 50 years, Birmingham has transformed from a majority white city where laws restricted blacks from drinking from the “white” water fountain or being served at downtown lunch counters . Today, the city is about 80 percent black, and blacks make up the majority on the city’s governing boards and agencies.
“The dream of Dr. King is unfolding here every day,” says Mayor Bell. “We’re not perfect, but we’re on the right path,” Bell told BlackAmericaweb.com.
In his 7,000-word letter, responding to white clergy in the city who questioned the civil rights protests, King challenged the good people to speak up and reject unjust laws. He chastised the clergy for their silence.
While America, the South and Birmingham have made progress over the years, Bernice King said there still should be a sense of urgency in addressing the needs of the masses.
“We still cannot wait. The wealth of blacks is still half that of whites. Blacks still are the last hired and first fired,” King said.
“We still cannot wait. We still have great health disparities. We still cannot wait. Blacks have half the good of whites and twice the bad. We still cannot wait, because we still have work to do,” she said.
Bernice King was only two weeks old when her father was locked up while leading a march on April 12, 1963, Good Friday.
If her birth had been delayed much longer, her father may not have been in Birmingham for the Good Friday march, and the letter that still today stirs racial consciousness may not have been written, she said.
Later Tuesday, at a church that was once the scene of a bombing that claimed the lives of four little girls in 1963, King joined five members of the clergy to talk about a response to a Letter From A Birmingham Jail.
When asked what the eight clergy who wrote a letter questioning the protests in 1963, Rev. Doug Carpenter said: “If the clergymen had put on their vestments and marched with the children, there’s no way Bull Conner would have put fire hoses on them.”
Carpenter was referring to the racist Birmingham police commissioner would order police dog attacks on children and have fire hoses sprayed on them as they marched for civil rights. Carpenter’s father, Episcopal Bishop Charles Carpenter, was one of the eight clergy to whom Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. responded in his letter.
Dr. Wilson Fallin Jr., a historian and president of the Birmingham Baptist-Easonian Bible College, said it was “utterly impossible” for the eight clergy to join in the protest, because most were part of Southern white Christianity.
“Southern white Christianity has not been an advocate of social change. It has supported the social structure,” Fallin said.
Rabbi Jonathan Miller challenged the racially mixed crowd to apply the letter in addressing issues today.
“I’ve learned to conduct my life like a historical lens is on us,” Miller said. “Look back and say, ‘what have we done? “ in the treatment of gay people, immigrants, and people in poverty, he said. “Fifty years from now, in 2063, can we measure ourselves by the letter and say how have we done?”
(Photo: Courtesy of Denise Stewart)
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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