In the midst of racial tensions, a conscious decision was made to make Birmingham, Alabama the target to aid the civil rights movement. Why? Because the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had a deeply organized center there, because of the impulsive police commissioner, and because the Ku Klux Klan had one of its most violent chapters located in Birmingham. These reasons in addition to forty percent of the citys population being black (Hampton and Fayer, 124) contributed to the careful selection of Birmingham to aid in the hard struggle of the civil rights movement. The SCLC was particularly well-organized in Birmingham. With a budget of roughly one-million dollars, and divided in to different departments such as the Citizenship Education Department and the Department of Operation Breadbasket, the SCLCs organization was compared to that of General Motors by Reverend Wyatt Walker in 1963 (qtd by Morris, 253). The organization staged such acts as instituting economic boycotts opposing businesses that discriminated against blacks. In addition to money and organization, the SCLC also had experience on their side.
The people who headed the separate departments had taken part in many of the civil rights protests.(Morris, 253). Possessing all of these traits, the SCLC proved to be a strong force in the progress of the civil rights movement.
Another reason that Birmingham was chosen was because they had a racist, impetuous police commissioner by the name of Eugene Bull Connor (Morris,252). He was easy to infuriate and his violent responses to the non-violent protests served as good publicity to expose the injustice that minorities endured at the time. During a Freedom Ride in 1961, a riot broke out between protesters and those against the movement. The police were slow to arrive, according to Connor, because it was Mothers Day (Fairclough, 112). Blatant apathy towards the many violent and unjust acts that occurred during this time proved Eugene Bull Connor to be ignorant enough to fall into the SCLCs intricate plan for equality in the south.
A third reason for the choice was the fact that one of the KKKs most violent klaverns was located in Birmingham. One of its members, Robert Chambliss, took part in bombings so often that he was known as Dynamite Bob. Chambliss and his fellow Klan members undoubtedly helped Birmingham become known as Bombingham (Hampton and Fayer, 124). The Klans ominous presence in the city was a brutal reminder that things had to change.These and many other reasons contributed to the selection of Birmingham, Alabama as the mark for the advancement of the civil rights movement. Without these factors, the effort to change the south from an ignorant and racist sector to the integrated south that we see today may have been impossible to achieve, and future efforts to progress this ongoing movement would seem a nagging impossibility.
Bibliography:Fairclough, Adam. To Redeem the Soul of America. Athens: University ofGeorgia, 1987.Hampton, Henry, and Steve Fayer. Voices of Freedom. NY: Bantam Books,1990.Morris, Alan. The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement.
NY: The Free Press, 1986.