Members of the Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church, an African American church, in Birmingham, Alabama. The bomb was detonated just before a Sunday service, killing four young girls and injuring fourteen other people.
Alabama governor George Wallace, who previously declared, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” attempted to stop the integration of the University of Alabama by physically blocking the entry of two black students. Wallace eventually stood aside after President Kennedy authorized the National Guard to step in.
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” after being arrested on April 12 during a civil rights demonstration in Birmingham, Alabama. On the day of King’s arrest, a group of white religious leaders issued “A Call for Unity,” a statement urging an end to the demonstrations; King’s letter was a response to that statement. In his letter, King justified the movement’s tactics and admonished white churches for not supporting rights for African Americans.
The Montgomery bus boycott began on December 6, 1955, prompted by the arrest five days earlier of Rosa Parks. The boycotters were led by Martin Luther King Jr. They walked and carpooled to protest segregation in public transportation. They faced harassment and violence from white police and residents. In November 1956, the Supreme Court ruled in Gayle et al. v. Browser that segregation of the city’s buses was unconstitutional. African Americans returned to Montgomery’s buses on December 21, 1956.
Martin Luther King Jr. organized a freedom march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest voter registration interference by the police. The march was halted when Alabama state troopers stopped and beat the protestors at Pettus Bridge. The march resumed with 3,200 protestors on March 21. They were escorted at President Johnson’s orders by the National Guard. The march reached Montgomery with more than 25,000 protestors on March 25.
The Scottsboro Nine were nine African American men and boys who, in 1931, were tried and convicted of raping two white women on an Alabama freight train. Though there was no physical evidence of the crime and the women’s testimony proved questionable, the men were found guilty. All nine were free by 1950, through legal processes and escape.
The Freedom Riders were young black and white activists who in 1961 compelled the federal government to enforce a Supreme Court ruling against segregation in interstate travel and interstate travel facilities. On May 4, 1961, the first Freedom Riders set out in two buses from Washington, DC, toward New Orleans. The riders were attacked and beaten by white mobs throughout the South, and they were jailed multiple times. The violence prompted US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to call in US marshals, and in late May Kennedy finally ordered...
Zora Neale Hurston (ca. 1891–1960) was a writer and anthropologist associated with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s. Hurston grew up in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated African American town in the nation. Hurston published her first short story in 1921, while still a student at Howard University. In 1925, Hurston received a scholarship to Barnard College and moved to New York City, where she joined other black writers and artists in the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston continued to publish and studied anthropology, and...