With racial tension in the USA flaring up, one author comes to mind who fought for liberty and freedom for all. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Why we can’t wait marked the beginning of America’s Negro Revolution, which described 1963 as a landmark year for the civil rights movement.
The book can be described as a historical memoir that describes the events that led to the revolution. The recent BLM movement seems to echo the events of the Birmingham campaign and it is as though history is repeating itself, this time around with social media to back it.
Why the wait was over in 1963
King had spent a long time waiting and as he so aptly put it, “wait” had almost always meant “never.” He observed how Africa and Asia were moving at great speeds to secure their independence. Even after the 1954 ruling that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional, change was not coming.
King’s sentiments were further enhanced in 1960, which was also called the Year of Africa, due to the 17 nations that regained their independence. After the great depression, things did not get any better for African Americans and in 1963, the economic divide was more evident than ever.
Black unemployment was at an all-time high and King decided to draw a line in the sand and start the non-violent direct action to exact change.
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The Birmingham Campaign
Birmingham was one of the most segregate and racially divided cities in the USA. It was here that King and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) organized the Birmingham movement to bring attention to the integration efforts of the African Americans in Birmingham.
The non-violent direct action campaign would erupt in widely publicized public confrontations between young black students and white civic authorities. Their efforts were not in vain as it led to the local municipal government to change their discrimination laws.
The cost of the campaign
Whenever a black person was to bring attention to the injustice of the segregation that was reigning, he or she would often face violent retribution. The Protests in Birmingham already began in 1960 when Fred Shuttleworth organized a boycott to pressure business leaders to open their doors for equal employment opportunities and to end segregation in public areas, restaurants, schools, and stores.
Shuttleworth was later joined by the SCLC and seeing that there were not many adult volunteers, students were trained in non-violent marches.
They would walk in groups of 50 from 16th Street Baptist Church to City Hall to talk about segregation, but the marches led to over a thousand arrests.
Not all the students would keep to the non-violent structure of the marches, which allowed the local authorities to exact justice in the form of water cannons and setting the police dogs on the protesters. King and SCLC were held in both high and low regard for allowing children to do their footwork.
These public, non-violent protests caught the eye of the media and news quickly spread about the segregation in the city. Ultimately, it paved the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited the racial discrimination hiring practices and public services that were prevalent in the United States.
The power of nonviolence
The local authorities played right into the hands of King as the jails that they were sent to become the hub where they would rally. Previously, the jail was used as a place of intimidation and fear, but seeing that the cells were being filed with like-minded groups of people, the act of being jailed became politicized and was not as much of a punishment for the protesters.
King was opposed to tokenism in that it only served as a smokescreen for change. It had no real value and gave no real power to the minority. It was not something that would affect change, whereas nonviolence was a noble start but a sustainable one that could bring about change for all African Americans in the USA.
The revolution that was to follow
After the success of the Birmingham campaign, King cautioned against complacency and marked that the freedom that he was fighting for was not for black people alone. Anyone who was oppressed had the right to liberty and freedom. King believed in the word “Now” and knew that if the change was to be effected, it had to be grasped, it was not going to come idly.
As the tension in the US and all over the world is growing, it seems as though the general populace has forgotten about the Birmingham movement and that many have become complacent. Little injustices have been ignored and again, some cannot wait any longer. One would only hope that instead of violence and going down the same road, the powers that be would realize the similarities in current events and learn from past failures.
Vendy Adams works for a local newspaper as a senior writer and editor. She has a great interest in the writing field and also works for an online assignment service as a thesis and dissertation writer. In her free time, she looks after her tech blog, plays with her kids and watches nature and environmental documentaries.
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