Civil Rights Leader C. Herbert Oliver Recalls His Report on the Bombing of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963

Just five days after the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963, the Reverend C. Herbert Oliver wrote a report on Birmingham in the form of a letter, circulated nationwide on behalf of the Inter-Citizens Committee, in which he documented the violence that was consuming the city.  

The Gilder Lehrman Collection recently acquired an original copy of the Reverend Oliver’s letter. Oliver, who now lives in Brooklyn, kindly agreed to an interview at the Collection, which included a special viewing of his letter. 

An important figure in the civil rights struggle, a colleague of Martin Luther King Jr.’s, and a witness to and participant in history, the Reverend Oliver will feature prominently in longer upcoming videos from the Gilder Lehrman Institute. For now, in honor of the fifty-fifth anniversary of his September 20, 1963 report on Birmingham, the Institute presents the following clip of Oliver speaking with Collection curator Sandra Trenholm and high school students from a Gilder Lehrman Affiliate School about the bombing, its aftermath, and his response.

For further information about the Reverend C. Herbert Oliver, the Inter-Citizens Committee, and violence against African Americans in 1960s Birmingham, see the newly published Spotlight on a Primary Source: “The Bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, 1963.”