SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

September 14, 2013

Shribman: Young martyrs to freedom

(Continued)

Only days before the Birmingham incident, King had spoken of Alabama and its “vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification,” and indeed only a week before the bombing Gov. George C. Wallace had remarked that Alabama needed a “few first-class funerals” to stop integration. After the bombing, King wired the governor, saying “the blood of four little children ... is on your hands,” adding: “Your irresponsible and misguided actions have created in Birmingham and Alabama the atmosphere that has induced continued violence and now murder.”

But Wallace, who had been defeated at the schoolhouse door earlier that year, when federal marshals enforced integration at the University of Alabama, suffered another defeat in September. The bombing and the funerals they produced did not stop the integration of the Birmingham schools.

The church, which King had used as a meeting place for his marches against segregation in Birmingham, has entered American history as a landmark in the fight for freedom, along with Boston’s Old North Church, where the one-if-by-land, two-if-by-sea message was flashed to freedom fighters of a different age.

The prominence of houses of worship in the story of freedom — we might add the many scores that produced foot soldiers in the social-gospel movement and the battle for civil rights — is a poignant reminder of perhaps King’s most sorrowful but stinging observation, the truth, evident even today, that the most segregated hour of the week is 11 a.m. on Sunday morning.

The year 2013 has been unusually rich with commemorations. There were the 150th anniversaries of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Battle of Gettysburg, and in November arrives the sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address. And there were the 50th anniversaries of so many 1963 landmarks: Lyndon Johnson’s speech at Gettysburg that foreshadowed the Civil Rights Act, the confrontation at the University of Alabama and John F. Kennedy’s speech recognizing the black struggle as a moral struggle — as well as King’s “dream” speech and the Birmingham bombings.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion

AP Video
Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment
Comments Tracker
Roll Call
Helium debate
Helium