April 3, 1963 - Project C - The Birmingham Campaign is Launched
Under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy, and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference launches "Project C", an effort to desegregate downtown Birmingham businesses and end discrimination against African-Americans in
Four days after being arrested for violating a court injunction, King responds to an open letter from white Birmingham clergymen published in the New York Times criticizing his tactic of non-violent direct action, with his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail. In the letter he justifies his tactics, offers several definitions of unjust laws and argues that one has a moral obligation to violate such laws to bring about their repeal. (click here for text of letter)
May 2, 1963 - The "Children's Crusade" is Launched
In a controversial tactic, Civil Rights leaders decide to march elementary, middle, and high school students in the Birmingham Campaign. Nearly a thousand are arrested on a single day as school buses replace paddy wagons to haul the children to jail. Birmingham Police Commissioner "Bull" Connor orders that police dogs and high pressure fire hoses be used against the demonstrators. The scenes, broadcast on television and described in newspapers around the world, cause outrage and disgust.
May 10, 1963 - Birmingham Agreement Signed
On May 10th, civil rights leaders Rev. Shuttlesworth, Rev. Abernathy, and Dr. King come to an agreement with downtown Birmingham businessmen that provides for the desegregation of downtown lunch counters, removal of ‘‘Whites Only’’ and ‘‘Blacks Only’’ signs in restrooms and on drinking fountains, and a program for expanding the hiring of African Americans in downtown businesses
May 11, 1963 - Martin Luther King's Hotel Room Bombed
Hours after Reverend King left Birmingham, the Gasten Motel, where he had been staying, is bombed. In response, rioting breaks out in Birmingham and other American cities.
June 11, 1963 - Alabama Governor George Wallace Attempts to Block Admission of Black Students To University of Alabama
In violation of a federal court order, segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace stands his ground to prevent African-American students Vivian Malone and James Hood from enrolling in classes at the University of Alabama. President Kennedy federalizes the national guard to enforce the court order.
June 11, 1963 - President Kennedy Gives Televised Address Calling on Congress to Pass Civil Rights Bill
Responding to recent events in Alabama, President Kennedy calls on Congress to take up a bill that would be the most important Civil Rights enactment passed at the Federal level since the adoption of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution
June 12, 1963 - Civil Rights Activist Medgar Evers Assassinated at Home in Mississippi
Just after midnight on June 12, 1963, only hours after President Kennedy called on Congress to pass Civil Rights legislation, Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers was shot and killed in his driveway as he left his car to walk into his home.
June 16th 1963 - Civil Rights Bill Introduced in House of Representatives
Initially proposed by labor leader and civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph, the march involved 250,000 demonstrators and culminated with a rally on Washington mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Organizers called on President Kennedy and Congress to back a Civil Rights bill that would end discrimination in public accommodations and hiring, legislation protecting the voting rights of African-Americans, job training programs, public works programs to address unemployment, and an end to segregation in schools. (Click for text of King's Speech)
September 15, 1963 - 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Bombed
On the Sunday morning of September 15, 1963, the church that had been central to the Birmingham campaign the previous spring, was bombed. Four young girls were killed in the attack.
(Clockwise from top left- Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair)
November 22, 1963 - John F. Kennedy Assassinated
Five days after Kennedy's assassination, in an address to a joint session of Congress, Texan and newly sworn in President Lyndon B. Johnson states, "No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long,"
February 10 , 1964 - Civil Rights Act Passes House of Representatives
On the 188th anniversary of the 2nd Continental Congress's vote to declare independence from Britain (the Declaration was signed two days later), and the 39th birthday of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers, President Lyndon Johnson signs into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law is the most important Civil Rights enactment by Congress since its passage of the 14th amendment nearly a century earlier. The law includes a prohibition on discrimination on account of race in public accommodations and in hiring (click picture for film of bill signing - note the number of pens LBJ uses)
On the Web
EYES ON THE PRIZE, episode 4 "No Easy Walk" - PROJECT C (THE BIRMINGHAM CAMPAIGN) THROUGH THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON