Birmingham, Alabama Demonstrations of 1963

Birmingham, Alabama Demonstrations of 1963

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The topic we researched was the demonstrations that occurred in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. These demonstrations stemmed from rising racial tensions in the area. African American people cried out for equality and when their cries were not answered they took the next step and participated in numerous demonstrations in 1963. The topics concerning the demonstrations and events that occurred in Birmingham that were most commonly written about in 1963 are lunch counter demonstrations, marches, a boycott of four variety store chains, church bombings, and the arrest of Martin Luther King, Jr. Most of these events revolved around Martin Luther King, Jr. making him appear to be the central figure in Alabama and in the south at that time.

-Lunch Counter Demonstrations: These demonstrations occurred when groups of African Americans would go to a lunch counter and stay there until they received service or the lunch counter closed down (“The South” 30). These demonstrations were not widely discussed among many newspapers or magazines except for Time Magazine.

-Marches: Marches were a larger scale demonstration. Very large groups of African Americans would assemble and march together to a certain destination. A good example of a march is when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a march on downtown stores in Birmingham to protest segregation. Even though the march was peaceful Martin Luther King, Jr. was still arrested for participating in the march (Hailey 70). Not only is this discussed in The New York Times but it is also discussed in The Atlanta University Review of Race and Culture. The Atlanta University Review of Race and Culture states that during his time in prison he also wrote a very influential letter that stated his feelings and concerns on the current state of America (Colaiaco 10).

- Boycott of four variety store chains: Martin Luther King, Jr. planned and held a nation wide of four variety store chains. The boycott originated in Birmingham and the chains that were selected all had stores in Birmingham that segregated against Blacks. These stores depended on the revenue generated by black customers, so the boycotts damaged their business (“Four Chains Target of Racial Boycott” 20).

- Church Bombings: In Birmingham, in 1963, there were numerous bombings within the area. There were over twenty bombings devastating the Birmingham area.

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One that gains national attention though was when bombers bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church. In this bombing four girls were killed and fourteen people were injured. A committee was created to find these alleged bombers. A reward was posted for any information concerning the bombing. This issue was covered heavily in The New York Times (Herbers 25).

· Book Reviews: The first book we found was by Bobby Wilson called Race and Place in Birmingham: The Civil Rights and Neighborhood Movements. The book is about race relations in Birmingham. The book was published in 2000, which makes it a recounting of the events that took place in Birmingham in 1963. She also located a book review of the book Birmingham Tragedies by Diane McWhorter. The book review that Leryn found was called “Carry Me Home Birmingham, Alabama: The Climatic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution,” by Peter Kerry Powers and it reviewed the book Birmingham Tragedies by Diane McWhorter. This review focused on the civil rights movements in Birmingham, including the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombings and the following demonstrations that occurred as an uproar from such attacks on the Black community.


When we set out to research this topic we pretty much divided ourselves into groups. Blake and Harry each went to the computers and started researching for articles examining coverage of our topic at the time it was reported. Blake thoroughly researched articles in the New York Times Historical Index and found a wealth of articles concerning the demonstrations that occurred in Birmingham. While Blake used the New York Times, Harry searched mainly for scholarly journals that covered the events. Harry discovered that JSTOR and Phylon were the most useful in his pursuit to find information concerning the Birmingham demonstrations. Both Harry and Blake used the date selection feature in order to narrow our searches so that we only found articles that were contemporary to our topic. We believed that two people searching for articles would be sufficient and thus Leryn was placed on book duty. Leryn looked for books about the topic and then tracked down our book review. She used the online catalogues to find books in the library concerning our topic and then EBSCO to find the review of the book. She found this database to be very effective in finding the book review. Leryn also consulted a librarian on where to locate books on civil rights and was directed downstairs. She then searched in the civil rights section for books concerning our topic.

The only difficulty that we encountered was our initial search topic. The online topic that you gave said to look for articles concerning demonstrations in Montgomery, Alabama, which we could not find. We all searched for some time and all we could find was information on Birmingham, so we called you and you said that we could just use Birmingham. Once we started searching for articles about the civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham we were able to find a lot of information and the project went a lot more smoothly. Overall, we all met at the same times and put in the same amount of effort and time into our research. Everything went smoothly within the group and we were able to effectively corroborate to complete this report.

Works Cited

Clark, Alfred E. ”Newsman Beaten After Rally Here: Harlem Windows Smashed—Dr. King’s Brother Talks.” New York Times 15 May 1963: 26.

Colaiaco, James A. “The American Dream Unfulfilled: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail.’” Phylon Vol. 45 (1984): 1-18.

“Four Chains Target of Racial Boycott.” New York Times 18 April 1963: 20.

Hailey, Foster. “Dr. King Leaves Birmingham Jail: Posts Bond and Says Negro Protests Will Continue.” New York Times 21 April 1963: 70.

McWhorter, Diane. Birmingham Tragedies. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001.

Powers, Peter Kerry. “Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama—The Climatic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution.” Rev. of Birmingham Tragedies, by Diane McWhorter. Christian Century 24 Oct. 2001: 706.

“The South.” Time Magazine 19 April, 1963: 30-31.

Wilson, Bobby. Race and Place in Birmingham: The Civil Rights and Neighborhood Movements. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Little Field Publishers, 2000.
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