Martin Luther King and the protests of 1963

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Key Themes

  • Methods and activities of Martin Luther King
  • The Birmingham Peace marches April-May 1963
  • The March on Washington, 28th August 1963
  • Kennedy’s Assassination, 22nd November 1963
  • The Mississippi Freedom Summer, 1964
    • The murders of Michale Scherner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney (members of Core)
    • The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP)
    • The Civil Rights Act, 1964
  • The March on Selma, 1965
    • Bloody Sunday – 7th March
    • Second March – 9th March – called off by Martin Luther King
    • March completed – 21st March
  • The Voting Rights Act, August, 1965

Timeline of key events

  • 1963
    • February-March – King, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organize a set of protests and demonstrations to fight segregation in Birmingham, Alabama.
    • 12th April – the Birmingham police arrest Martin Luther King, Jr. for demonstrating in the city without a city permit.
    • 16th April – Martin Luther King, Jr. writes “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” where he famously responds to eight white ministers from Alabama who begged him to end the protests and to just be patient with the judicial process for overturning segregation.
    • 2nd May – Children’s Crusade – the first large children’s march took place; some as young as six; some were critical that children were being used as protesters; but they were more shocked by the treatment meted out to them by Bull Connor and the Birmingham Police. By the end of the day 1000 children had been arrested.
    • 3rd May – more children marched, but this time, because the jails were full, Bull O’Connor changed tactics and ordered his police to set dogs on the protestors and then called in the fire department to use powerful hoses on them. Connor’s actions meant that the civil rights groups got the publicity they wanted. Television footage and photographs of young people being attacked by dogs and fire hoses were shown throughout the world.
    • 10th May – President Kennedy sent a negotiator to Birmingham to help work out an agreement but , and the mayor and protest leaders began talks. This stirs up violence including bombings of African American homes and businesses.
    • 11th and 12th May – The extreme violence results in black rioting takes place; Kennedy calls in the Federal troops to restore calm. Most of the white businesses preferred to make concessions rather than continue to lose money through lost trade;
    • 11th June – President Kennedy delivers a speech from the Oval Office, discussing civil rights and explaining why he sent the National Guard in order to allow two African-American students into the University of Alabama, blocked by the Governor of Alabama himself, George Wallace, as a public show of his commitment to ‘segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!’, his campaign slogan from the previous year.  Boby Dylan will reference this moment in his song ‘The times they are a-chanin’ in 1964.
    • 28th August – The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom occurs on August 28 in Washington D.C. where nearly 250,000. Here, King famously delivers his “I have a dream” speech.
    • 22nd November – Kennedy is assassinated, but Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, uses the country’s anger to pass civil rights legislation, using the legacy of Kennedy’s memory to do so.

Childrens Crusade – Birmigham 1963


George Wallace Stands in the Schoolhouse Doorway


Kennedy’s 1963 Televised Address, 11th June, 1963


Bob Dylan


Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech


Dream turns to nightmare

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