MLK loses the Battle of
Birmingham by Steve Payne
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.
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
Alternate History web site.
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