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tv   Letter from a Birmingham Jail  CSPAN  August 22, 2014 8:48pm-9:04pm EDT

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riot and protest racism across america. the east st. louis race riot was the spark for the first civil rights march. i think what i want a reader to take away from the book is that it ain't over. i just think that we need to be conscious -- very conscious -- is our forget that this racial history and all grew out of slavery. slaverydeadly legacy of and we still see its results around us. c-span's american history tour continues with a look at martin luther king's 1963 letter from birmingham jail. then the reverend's work who cofounded the southern christian leadership conference with reverend king. after that, the 1963 bombing of , church thatlabama killed four african-american girls.
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in his april, 1960 three, letter from birmingham jail, martin luther king described the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism, an argument that people have the moral responsibility to break unjust laws. c-span visited the replica of reverend king's jail cell. we're in the birmingham civil rights institute in front of a replica of dr. martin luther king's jail cell, the cell that he wrote the letter from birmingham jail in 1963. a white minister issued a statement published in the local newspapers that call dr. king's demonstrations unwise and untimely. dr. king responded to that with the letter from birmingham jail. decided invoters april 1963 to change the form of government. hes running for mayor and loses the election and the very
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next day after this run off april 2, then he starts the marches. , and of people felt birmingham and throughout the country, that the timing of the marches were suspect. dr. king could have waited to see what changes the new birmingham city government might have made. he receives a large amount of criticism from all over the country. the kennedy administration is highly critical at the timing of these marches. you will find most of the major newspapers and news outlets are also critical. it is not just whites in a birmingham critical of the timing. what dr. king is hoping to do, as he says, is to shed the light of truth on the injustices of segregation and birmingham. needs is national media coverage to show those injustices which of course were
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rampant through birmingham. it is an eight to segregation and birmingham. -- it is inante. it is criticized. dr. king does not have a lot of volunteers. early set ends, you see one or two dead people sitting at a lunch counter that are arrested. a judge in birmingham issues an injunction which prohibits any marches in the streets of birmingham without a parade permit. they say they will not get a parade permit from the outgoing administration and connor. he decides on good friday 1963 in a very symbolic way, very intentional, that they were .oing to disobey
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dr. king and the volunteers that tame with him decided they were going to march through the streets. it was just hacked that day with people waiting in anxious anticipation for dr. king, abernathy to show up and begin to lead this a good friday march. they begin the march and they avenue north and passed right in front of the 16th street baptist church. birmingham police kind of run a motorcycle up on the sidewalk in front of them and they arrest king and abernathy and they take him across town over the south
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side which is where the birmingham jail was located. at some point during his stay, he is either going to receive word or he's going to actually read in the newspaper this statement by these eight white ministers which called his marches unwise and untimely. he begins writing a response to them on the margins of the newspaper that he reads this and. slowly, he starts -- i think this is an intellectual exercise, during the eight days that he's in jail. is aprilon the letter 16, 19 63, 4 days after he is arrested. composing this and he smuggles bits and pieces of this out with his attorneys who come into the jail to visit him. back at movement headquarters, close to where we are at the
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civil rights institute, his right hand man, reverend walker, is the executive director. ofactually act as a compiler all of these fragments of notes and scraps. it's like a literary jigsaw puzzle that he tries to put it coherent and give it structure. all is he getting are just these random thoughts that are coming out. he compiles it and he turns it over to his secretary, a woman named macky. she begins typing it on the typewriter there at headquarters and it is something that is not completed while dr. king is in jail. they continue to work on it jail.he's out of he purposely addresses this letter to the clergyman.
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jail?ites letters from the apostle paul. he enjoyed drawing that parallel with the apostle paul. he and previously preached a 's epistle to paul christians in america. this was something already in his mind. you thought about writing a letter when he was in jail in albany, georgia, and chose not to. this is something that was already in his mind. the apostle paul writes his letters to other christians and other leaders in the church. he thought that was a very important parallel that he wanted to draw. he's really admonishing, rebuking the white religious leaders for not taking a bolder stand. he had hoped that the white church would have stepped forward and really supported the
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movement and supported the marches in the streets. he felt very disappointed and he talks about that in his letter from birmingham jail. disappointed in the white church. he had hoped they would have in the fights side against injustices. theas heavily critical of moderate approach to civil rights or the gradualist approach. what we are talking about here is dr. king is marching in the streets. ofs going to shed the light truth on the injustice of segregation. he wants to see segregation ended. he wants to see african-americans get their voting rights and have all right as american citizens. powerfule most passages within the letter from birmingham jail is where he critical he's highly
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of one person setting a timetable for another person receiving justice. one group saying you need to wait. what's interesting is the theme of why we cannot wait emerges from the letter. later builtis around the letter to birmingham jail that is widely published, the name of the book that dr. king helps right is "why we can't wait." you see some of the early type two versions of the letter and it's what it looks like. it looks like a letter. pages.out 21 typed it has the names of the eight white ministers at the top of it. it has the date on it, april 16. and it begins with a salutation -- my dear fellow clergyman. none of the eight white
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ministers ever received a personal copy of the letter from birmingham jail. these southern leadership conference never intended to print it off, folded, stick it in an envelope with stamps and send it in the mail to these eight white ministers. they first see it after it's published in the various media outlets around the country. again, the timing is kind of important to understanding the letter from birmingham jail. there is some real misconceptions about it. until afterleased the birmingham movement is essentially over that there has been a truce. if you look in the letter, there is a very forceful passage where the king rebukes the eight white
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ministers for talking about how calm of the birmingham police had then in handling the demonstration. when the eighth white ministers issued their public statement on 1963,riday, april 12, they had been relatively nonviolent in handling the .emonstrations with dr. king when people are reading it, they white ministers are praising the police department for calm when handling the demonstration when all they have seen on television and in the newspapers are these fire hoses and police dogs. a lot of people are really upset by this. the eight white ministers, most of them start receiving letters from around the country. some of them are incredibly vicious in condemning them and >> these were not a
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segregationist by any means. these were eight individuals. they may have signed a statement together, but they came out of different faiths and traditions. just like most white southerners at the time, it is more complex. racehad varying views on and segregation. there's a great distinction between the national civil rights movement as led by dr. king and the southern christian leadership conference and what is going on in the local movements. dr. king is very much focused, again, on getting the attention of the american public. he needs immediate to do that. that is why we have seen them in a very sophisticated way, being very experimental in trying to attract media attention. and votingcitizens rights marches. they tried sending dr. king to
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jail, which garners a bit of publicity. when he gets out of jail, the media starts to leave. we king is quoted as saying, have to do something. the media is leaving, we have to do something to keep them here. he had the idea of recruiting school children. one of the main problems with the movement that the route april and going into may of 1963, is they didn't have enough people to fill the jails and they didn't have enough people to participate in demonstrations. what happens is they go to the black schools and are able to recruit a lot of schoolchildren, high schoolers, middle schoolers and even elementary schoolers, are all going to come in and participate in a mass children's march over several days in early may of 1963. bill conner, who is still in charge of the police department,
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he is the commissioner of public safety which oversees the police department. and orderspanics widespread use of police dogs and fire hoses, which is what we most associate with that. ultimately, what happens is that there is an agreement between the business community and dr. king and the southern christian leadership conference that they will call off the marches in some rather really minor concessions in terms of taking whites only signs down in department stores and public blacks in, hiring of theous positions and ultimate goal is to try to get blacks on the police force. that is the true succumbs out of the birmingham campaign. >> when most people think of
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birmingham, they think of police dogs, firehoses and the death of four little girls. inmingham is frozen in time ofil, may into september 1963. but life went on in birmingham. after dr. king laughed, it was up to the citizens of birmingham to try to bring about actual integration. it is a long struggle through the rest of the 1960's to slowly become sowhat had ingrained in birmingham's culture, but also in the culture of the south. birmingham provides a lot of momentum for the civil rights act of 1964, which outlaws segregation and that will begin the meaningful process. it takes several years. the story goes on. civil rights just doesn't and in birmingham. it is a continuous struggle.


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