On May 2, 1963 a large crowd of black teens came rushing through the doors of the 16th Street Baptist Church in protest of Bull Connors‘ election and the growing discrimination in Birmingham. The strategy to combat the racist policy and associated deaths was labeled as Project C (for Confrontation). This strategy would include the use of more children.
The Birmingham police arrested over 700 children and adults that same day. Among them was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This was the period in which King wrote his “Letters from Birmingham Jail.”
The next day, over 1,000 activists, many of them teens, protested on the streets and were brutally hosed down by order of Bull Connor. Within one week of the Project C protests, 2,500 young people occupied the jails of Birmingham.
After nearly 40 days of protest, the business leaders of Birmingham agreed on a compromise, due to their loss of customers from the segregation protests. Unfortunately, the deals were not upheld. Governor George Wallace said the compromise was not by legitimate business dealers of the city. The KKK bombed the hotel they believed was occupied by Dr. King, who had already left the premises. As blacks rallied around the hotel, they were met with dogs and police brutality.
The stories of the resistance and fight in Birmingham, Alabama is told in a new book by Jonathan Reider’s book entitled “Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King Jr.’ s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle that Changed a Nation.”
(Photo: Library of Congress)