Hundreds of State Troopers were called in to stand by with tear gas, submachine guns, and shotguns.
Alabama’s racist governor George Wallace has threatened to prosecute black people for murder if anyone dies at a demonstration.
This was the real horror. Sooner or later, powerful jets from police batons and fire hoses will kill or injure black people (perhaps children), or enraged black people will kill cops.
Even more disturbing, it was clear that even among those whose job it was to keep the peace, the lust for violence was nearing the surface.
Prominent black leader Alter was injured when jets of water blew him along a sidewalk and slammed him against a wall this week and was taken to hospital by ambulance.
Eugene (“Bull”) Connor, the city’s police and fire chief, said, “I wish they had taken him away in the hearse.”
But the lust for violence was not confined to the beleaguered white community.
Moderate blacks had to stop fellow demonstrators from carrying weapons, and several policemen were injured by stones thrown from roofs and street corners.
Factors working in Birmingham
There were many forces at work in Birmingham.
- Black children protesters organized by Martin Luther King Jr.
They marched peacefully, boarded buses as if they were going on a school trip, and marched to prison.
- Unorganized older blacks who voluntarily demonstrated out of anger at seeing their children sent to prison.
These are the people most likely to set off a chain reaction of violence, and Martin Luther King, realizing this, told them to stay away.
- The police were guilty of imprisoning children, pissed off with rocks and abuse, thrown at children, and very close to flashpoint.
At the end of the week, the State Police came in to harden them up and create an even more dangerous atmosphere of violence.
- The federal government, through the mediator on the ground, Attorney General’s Office Burke Marshall, eventually tied the two sides together in an uneasy truce.
Meanwhile, the Reverend Martin Luther King, despite its dangers, rejoices about the results of his campaign.
he said: In the truest sense of the word, this is a dream come true. ”
Dream: “Put the whole matter before the conscience of communities and nations.”
Carefully Selected Testing Sites
He chose the location wisely to do this: not in a minor backwardness center, but in a large city, highly industrialized, with at least some sections of the entire community at least to some degree in black demand. sympathy – even from the wise financial self – interest.
Alabama is a cotton state. But it’s also a heavy industry state in the South, and Birmingham is its Pittsburgh.
Behind the city, Red Mountain provides an inexhaustible supply of iron ore for the local furnaces. There are huge coal deposits nearby.
Birmingham has a population of about 350,000, nearly 200,000 more than its capital, Montgomery, and apart from civil rights issues, Birmingham’s administration is positive and adventurous.
Current development plans cost over £40m and include an airport expansion and an urban highway plan.
The city is completing an important research center and a major museum.
Birmingham is the city of more businesses and businessmen than any city in the state and many others in the South.
And importantly, it was the city’s business leaders, recognizing the power of the black economy and the bad reputation the city has earned, that brought about this week’s truce.
But while many cities in the South are nothing like Birmingham, all of them can react like Birmingham to the brink of bloodshed.
And the unanswered questions are: Where will it happen next? And could it happen again, even now in Birmingham?
https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/from-the-archives-1963-race-crisis-flashpoint-in-alabama-20230502-p5d4wt.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_world The Flashpoint of Alabama’s Racial Crisis