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MLK loses the Battle of Birmingham by Steve Payne

Author says: we celebrate the courage of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.at a pivotal moment of the Civil Rights Campaign by asking the question what if he listened to his advisers before the Battle of Birmingham? Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).


April12th 1963: on this day the Southern Christian Leadership Conference effectively forfeited control of the civil rights campaign with Martin Luther King's refusal to violate the injunction of racist police commissioner Eugene "Bull" Conner by leading a march in Birmingham, Alabama.
"Our protest was so vague that we got nothing, and the people were left very depressed and in despair"

Despite his depiction in the press as an American Gandhi, many of his youthful admirers doubted whether in fact MLK had the resolve to "break the back of segregation all over the nation". This perception had begun with his refusal to join the May 1961 Freedom Rides, and cemented by leaving jail with a bond following the unsuccessful mass protests in Albany, Georgia which MLK himself dismissed as "Our protest was so vague that we got nothing, and the people were left very depressed and in despair".

"We need a lot of money. We need it now. You are the only one who has the contacts to get it. If you go to jail, we are lost. The battle of Birmingham is lost"The problem was that the bondsman had refused to furnish bail, and the SCLC lacked the funds to release their own protestors. King was informed that "We need a lot of money. We need it now. You are the only one who has the contacts to get it. If you go to jail, we are lost. The battle of Birmingham is lost". MLK took the advice. And so the pressure that had been successfully applied to white and business community leaders by the sit-ins was allowed to dissapate. King had lost the Battle of Birmingham. Just a few hours after King announced his decision at the Garston Hotel, he received the wholley unexpected news that the entertainer Harry Bellafonte had raised sufficient funds to cover the bond payments, but by then, it was too late.

The leadership of the civil rights campaign would soon pass to more radical figures, one of whom had spent a great deal of time in jail himself. That man was Malcolm X.

Author says original content has been repurposed to celebrate the author's genius Carson, Clayborne. "1963: king maker: during demonstrations in Birmingham, Martin Luther King Jr. took perhaps the most fateful decision made during the civil rights era" published in the Winter 2009 Edition of American Heritage Magazine. To view guest historian's comments on this post please visit the Today in Alternate History web site.

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Steve Payne

Editor of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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