During Feb. the AFRO has been celebrating the work of former AFRO Executive Editor Moses J. Newson, who turned 90-years-old this month. In this final installment, Newsom reports from the South Christian Leadership Conference where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pledged to bring back massive protests to Birmingham, Al. in the face of continued segregation. Ultimately, protests were held in St. Augustine, Fla. in 1964.
Oct. 5, 1963
It’s definitely back to Birmingham or on to Danville for giant-scale street and economic protests–and possibly, if necessary, massive civil disobedience demonstrations that could immobilize elites and industries.
These were among the major project approved during the four-day, seventh annual convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference here Sept. 24-27.
In a dramatic freedom message closing out the convention Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., SCLC president, said decisions on the question of which city and when would be worked out in meetings with national leaders in Atlanta this week.
THE ONLY question to be settled on whether new all-out anti-segregation protests will be held depends only on concrete progress being made in the possible target cities and the extent of the protests depends upon what is necessary to “crumble the walls of segregation” Dr. King assured delegates and guests numbering about 3,500.
Dr. King envisioned “massive civil disobedience demonstrations the like of which has never been seen” in the event the public accommodations section of the Civil Right bill is defeated this year.
And, he added, “There will be nothing Martin Luther King can do about it except try to keep it non-violent.”
OTHER KEY actions during a convention filled with provocative speeches, area reports, non-violence workshops, spirited demonstrations as well as some lengthy behind – the – doors strategy sessions included:
- Approval of a march on Montgomery, Ala., details of which are to be worked out in the Atlanta meeting tentatively scheduled for this week.
- General approval of the don’t buy at Christmas project plus an enlarged selective buying campaign to encourage more hiring and upgrading of colored employables.
- Adoption of a GROW get rid of Wallace project for Alabama which would emphasize voting.
- Called for the removal from office of all officials who conduct themselves irresponsibly on the civil rights issue.
- Criticized the failure of the Federal Government to indict and prosecute high officials who defy the law of the land and protested indiscriminate use by the federal and state governments of serious felony charges and punishments of civil rights leaders.
- ASKED WHAT THE Civil Right Bill, already strengthened by the FEPC and the Title III section be further amended so all voting cases in which the government is a plaintiff be tried by a judge designated by the chief judge of the circuit; that voting referees be appointed by the same judge, that applications for voting right be decided within 60 days by federal judges and that an immediate state-by-state census be taken toward the end that those states denying any citizen the right to vote can have its congressional representation reduced.
- Urged that the U.S. government exercise its enormous available powers to protect all citizens from brutality and harassment and intimidation from any source whatsoever.
THROUGHOUT the convention here, Birmingham has been a constant topic with everybody expressing themselves as unhappy about the progress being made there.
The Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, who was cited by SCLC for his leadership of the last major demonstrations there, left the conference Wednesday, returned to accept his award and then went back to Birmingham to take part in talks through which President Kennedy’s two representatives are trying to better racial relations.
But Friday night when Dr. King went before an audience which had been waiting all week for his Freedom Message, he was still asking questions and fixing blame for the bombing of a church that killed four young girls.
Failure to finds these and other bombers in Alabama he termed “an indictment against the government and more specifically, the FBI.”
- KING said local communities in Birmingham have “demonstrated bad faith” in dealing with the matter of progress for colored citizens.
“I have come to the conclusion that if in the next few days something serious is not done in Birmingham, I will have to recommend to Dr. Fred Shuttlesworth and others that demonstrations be resumed there.”
“This time” he declared, as his listeners recalled pictures of water hoses and snapping police dogs, “they will be bigger and more determined.”
“We will call upon white and colored outsiders to come in and help.”
Dr. King said boycotts would be conducted against every firm which produces anything in Birmingham and its branch companies in other cities, if necessary.
“Maybe a new march on Washington will have to take place,” he declared.
THESE THINGS are necessary at once if demonstration are not to come back to Birmingham, Dr. King said. 1. Good faith negotiations should begin immediately between the political leaders and colored leaders.
- The Birmingham City Council and Mayor will make a public declaration urging respect and obedience for the law of the land.
- City officials request that the state troopers in Birmingham be removed.
- The City of Birmingham hire colored policemen to help restore the lost respect for enforcement authorities.
Dr. King called the Birmingham situation “most pressing” and said it could take precedence over Danville where SCLC plans to send a task force of 500 freedom fighters. Volunteers have already started signing up for the big push there.
CHILDREN in Birmingham can’t sleep these days, Dr. King said. He added that people are afraid in their homes, afraid in their churches, in their schools, everywhere. “Something must be done or something is going to happen,” he said.
Irked by the NAACP executive secretary Roy Wilkins’ cool reaction to the don’t buy at Christmas, Dr. King said he would hope the NAACP would not view the project as something that would be totally ineffective.
He noted that originally the NAACP had been cool to the idea of the March on Washington.
Dr. King said he was quite pleased with the strong reaffirmation of the non-violent theory from delegates to the convention despite the great provocations many of them have faced in the carrying out of their duties.
The convention had its largest participation this year and approved and expenditure budget larger than ever before, close to $900,000. SCLC also indicated in the near future it would begin to sell paid memberships.
Transcribed by J.K. Schmid