Saturday, December 29, 2007

BIRMINGHAM MANIFESTO

BIRMINGHAM MANIFESTO The Birmingham Manifesto, dated April 3, 1963, was the statement of purpose issued by the black inhabitants of Birmingham, Alabama, at the outset of what was later called the "Birmingham Crisis" of 1963. The "crisis" itself began with a number of mass demonstrations and protest marches against racial discrimination in Birmingham. On April 12, Martin Luther King, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and one of the principal organizers of the Birming­ham protest, was jailed "for parading without a permit." In protest demonstrations during the first week of May, thousands of marching blacks were met with fire hose, police dogs and ultimate police detention.

Following several bombings (including one which destroyed the home of Dr. King's brother) and a prolonged riot accompanied by destruction and violence in mid-May, President John F. Kennedy threatened to intervene with federal troops. The threat had the effect of easing racial tensions somewhat, but only until September. In response to attempts to integrate Birming­ham public schools, a number of blacks were killed, a riot was precipitated and a black Sunday School was bombed, leaving four young girls dead and a number of other children seriously injured. The September violence, fortunately, was short-lived. From that point on, no major racial riots occurred in Birming­ham. Nevertheless, the events in that city during 1963, including the issuance of the Manifesto, did have the effect of profoundly dramatizing to the nation as a whole the plight of blacks in the United States.

Pointing out that "the patience of an oppressed people cannot endure forever," the Birmingham Manifesto declared that "very little of the democratic process touches the life of the Negro in Birmingham. We have been segregated racially, exploited economically, and dominated politically." Maintaining that Bir­mingham itself "has acquired the dubious reputation of being the worst big city in race relations in the United States," the Manifesto concluded by appealing "to the citizenry of Birming­ham, Negro and white, to join us in this witness for decency, morality, self-respect and human dignity. Your individual and corporate support can hasten the day of liberty and justice for all."

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