Friday, June 23, 2017

1963 and Civil Rights

1963 would be one of the most explosive and important years of the Civil Rights Movement. It would be the 100th year Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which was a policy that wanted to free slaves from Confederate territories. On January 14, Governor Wallace wanted to maintain segregation forever in his January 14, 1963 inaugural address. He wouldn’t get his wish as segregation is not only racist and immoral. Jim Crow segregation has been involved in the torture and murder of black people. Harvey Gantt was the first black person to be in Clemson on January 28, 1963 (in the state of South Carolina). In February, about 400 people would be arrested in Baltimore in seating in a whites only movie theater. Baltimore would soon change the policy. The Birmingham Campaign would exist in 1963 too. Birmingham was one of the most segregated cities of the South. It was filled with violence, racism, and police brutality. The civil rights leaders learned lessons from the Albany movement in order for the Birmingham Campaign to be successful. The SCLC, SNCC, and other groups were involved in the campaign. Wyatt Tee Walker formed a plan to try to desegregate Birmingham downtown merchants rather than total desegregation as it was in Albany. Eugene “Bull” Connor was a brutal person. He was the Commissioner of Public Safety. He was especially cruel towards black protesters and he instigated violence against black people too. Connor had great political power and lost a mayoral election to the less rabidly segregationist candidate. Connor wanted to stay in office and formed a political clash with the new mayor. The Birmingham campaign involved many tactics. They included sit-ins, kneel-ins at local churches, etc. People marched to the county building to mark the beginning of a drive to register voters. Men and women were jailed.

The city issued an injunction barring all such protests. Many people defied it as viewing the injunction as unconstitutional. The campaign defied it and prepared for mass arrests of its supporters. Many protesters were arrested including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 12, 1963. Dr. King wrote his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” while he was in jail. He wrote his words on the margins of a newspaper. He did this, because he wasn’t allowed any writing paper while he was held in solitary confinement. He wanted to answer the moderate clergyman in Birmingham who didn’t want protests, didn’t want real change, and wanted people to wait for equality (which is ludicrous). Dr. King refuted them by saying that you don’t await for black people’s freedom and resistance against injustice in a radical way is legitimate. Supporters appealed to the Kennedy administration, which intervened to obtain King's release. King was allowed to call his wife, who was recuperating at home after the birth of their fourth child, and he was released early on April 19.  James Bevel or the SCLC’s Director of Direct Action and Director of Nonviolent Education wanted to train high school students to demonstrate. This was controversial as many civil rights activists opposed this plan. This plan was the Children’s Crusade. Dr. King reluctantly agreed to this action. The children came since it ran out of adult demonstrators to protest. On May 2, 1963, more than 1,000 students skipped school to meet at the 16th Street Baptist Church to join the demonstrations. More than six hundred marched out of the church fifty at a time in an attempt to walk to City Hall to speak to Birmingham's mayor about segregation. They were arrested and put into jail. In this first encounter the police acted with restraint. On the next day, however, another one thousand students gathered at the church. When Bevel started them marching fifty at a time, Bull Connor finally unleashed police dogs on them and then turned the city's fire hoses water streams on the children.

National television networks broadcast the scenes of the dogs attacking demonstrators and the water from the fire hoses knocking down the schoolchildren. This caused more outrage at how cowardly police officers would use dogs and water to attack black children. Widespread public outrage led the Kennedy administration to intervene more forcefully in negotiations between the white business community and the SCLC. White racists and many black conservatives opposed Dr. King during the Birmingham campaign. White racists didn’t want justice or freedom for black Americans. Both the racists and many black conservatives viewed Dr. King as a troublemaker and an outsider who would cause more problems. Racist whites didn’t want desegregation while conservative black people wanted Dr. King to leave and allow them work behind the scenes to solve the issue. Yet, direct action is necessary to make a solution beyond the racist intimidation of whites and conservatism of the black middle class. Sacrifices must be made for freedom. Malcolm X continued to oppose police brutality in Los Angeles in May of 1963 via a speech. On May 10, the parties announced an agreement to desegregate the lunch counters and other public accommodations in downtown Birmingham, to create a committee to eliminate discriminatory hiring practices, to arrange for the release of jailed protesters, and to establish regular means of communication between black and white leaders. The problem with the agreement was that it was too moderate and lacked a strong enforcement mechanism. Many in the black community opposed the agreement as being too compromising like Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth (whose home was bombed twice and he was beaten by white racists numerous times). He was skeptical about the good faith of Birmingham's power structure from his experience in dealing with them. Parts of the white community reacted violently, because they opposed the agreement. They bombed the Gaston Motel, which housed the SCLC's unofficial headquarters, and the home of King's brother, the Reverend A. D. King on May 11. In response, thousands of blacks used a rebellion. Some people burnt numerous buildings and one of them stabbed and wounded a police officer. Many black people used self-defense against white racists too. On May 20, the U.S. Supreme Court finds Birmingham and any other city segregation ordinance unconstitutional, thus making sit-ins legal. Kennedy prepared to federalize the Alabama National Guard if the need arose. Four months later, on September 15, 1963, a conspiracy of Ku Klux Klan members bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, killing four young girls. The killing of 4 innocent girls once again shown the cruelty of white racism.

The events of Birmingham caused protests in over 100 cities. The March on Washington inspired a nation. In late May of 1963, in the South side of Chicago, black people rebelled after a white police officer shot a fourteen year old black child, who was fleeing the scene of a robbery. Violent clashes between black activists and white workers took place in both Philadelphia and Harlem in successful efforts to integrate state construction projects. On June 6, over a thousand whites attacked a sit-in in Lexington, North Carolina; blacks fought back and one white man was killed. Edwin C. Berry of the National Urban League warned of a complete breakdown in race relations: "My message from the beer gardens and the barbershops all indicate the fact that the Negro is ready for war." In Cambridge, Maryland, a working‐class city on the Eastern Shore, Gloria Richardson of SNCC led a movement that pressed for desegregation but also demanded low‐rent public housing, job‐training, public and private jobs, and an end to police brutality. On June 1, 1963, African Americans Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes were the first black students to graduate from the University of Georgia. They celebrated and people cheered. Hunter would be a doctor and a reporter. On June 11, struggles between blacks and whites in  Cambridge, MD escalated into violent rioting, leading Maryland Governor J. Millard Tawes to declare martial law. When negotiations between Richardson and Maryland officials faltered, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy directly intervened to negotiate a desegregation agreement. Richardson felt that the increasing participation of poor and working-class black people was expanding both the power and parameters of the movement, asserting that "the people as a whole really do have more intelligence than a few of their leaders.สบ Gloria Richardson would be involved in protests and sit-ins in order to desegregate schools and hospitals in Cambridge, Maryland. John F. Kennedy was very moderate in his Presidency on civil rights. He didn’t want militant demonstrations.

Robert Kennedy on May 24, 1963 had a meeting with black intellectuals from Lorraine Hansberry to James Baldwin on racial issues. Black people criticized Robert Kennedy and the Kennedy administration for not going far enough on civil rights. Both sides didn’t compromise. Nonetheless, the Kennedys ultimately decided that new legislation for equal public accommodations was essential to drive activists "into the courts and out of the streets." The problem with this assumption is that any successful revolution used both the courts and the streets, not just the courts alone. Using the streets is a legitimate instrument of social change. To Robert Kennedy’s credit, he would change by the late 1960’s to be more militant and a powerful voice on issues of race and class. On June 11, 1963, George Wallace, Governor of Alabama, tried to block the integration of the University of Alabama. President John F. Kennedy sent a military force to make Governor Wallace step aside, allowing the enrollment of Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood. That evening, President Kennedy addressed the nation on TV and radio with his historic civil rights speech, where he lamented "a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety." He called on Congress to pass new civil rights legislation, and urged the country to embrace civil rights as "a moral our daily lives." In the early hours of June 12, 1963 Medgar Evers, field secretary of the Mississippi NAACP, was assassinated by a member of the Klan. The next week, as promised, on June 19, 1963, President Kennedy submitted his Civil Rights bill to Congress. James Meredith graduated on August 18, 1963. He graduated from the University of Mississippi. By the late 1963, Chicago in about 220,000 protested de facto segregation in schools back in October 22, 1963. Malcolm X gave his famous A Message to the Grassroots speech in Detroit on November 1963. JFK was assassinated in 1963 and a new chapter began. JFK’s unjust assassination made people aware bout the brutality of murder and Dr. King reflected on his mortality too. The Civil Rights Movement became more militant by 1963.

By Timothy

No comments: