"In May 1956 Alabama politicians stood on the beach of history and tried to hold back the tide. They outlawed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), in a desperate attempt to halt the movement for Negro equality. It turned out their action had the opposite effect- it backfired. Almost immediately the Negroes of Birmingham came together to form a movement which shook Birmingham and the rest of America." (Clayborne Carson,
When the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) mounted its campaign of mass protests in Birmingham, AL, in April and May 1963, the core of the movement's support came from the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth, one of King's cofounders of the SCLC, led this organization.
"They could outlaw an organization, but they couldn't outlaw the movement of a people determined to be free," said Shuttlesworth.
At first, some blacks were afraid to join, but many others followed the lead of Mrs.
Rosa Walker, one of the first members. "I was frightened, but I figured we needed help to get us more jobs and better education," Mrs. Walker said.
In its first year, the new organization filed two lawsuits. Both of these actions followed the pattern of court action established by the NAACP. Suits had always been one of the ACMHR's most effective weapons. During 1960 and 1961 the ACMHR filed a variety of lawsuits- to desegregate the parks and schools, open airport eating facilities, and to stop the police from attending ACMHR meetings. [During this time the law was very unjust in Alabama. A person could be a police chief during the day but a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) member during the night.] The lawsuits filed in 1961 ended in victories.
In the spring, Birmingham Negro college students and the...