The Children’s Crusade, which happened in May of 1963, came about in part because adults literally could not afford to keep getting arrested. More than a thousand students skipped school to walk from the Sixth Street Baptist Church to the downtown area.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see the straight line from vicious police dogs in Birmingham back to patrollers and their blood-thirsty hounds during slave times.
Bull Connor, who orchestrated much of the police response, was a right-old prick who refused to leave the office of sheriff even after he was voted out. Sound familiar?
I’ll leave you with two ideas (neither mine).
One: many believe that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would never have come into being absent the vigorous and prolonged protests in Birmingham through out 1963.
Two: in a related if slightly contradictory note, Charles M. Blow has a new book and HBO show that are promoting “reverse migration” whereby Blacks return to the South and in so doing gain political power. He essentially says “let’s skip protesting and getting arrested and go straight to Black power” (apparently a throwback to something Stokely Carmichael said).
K and I watched the HBO show yesterday. Recommend.
If you’re short on time, here’s my texted version of the trip:
It was overwhelming. Sad. Hard to digest it all. DT and EL were easy travel companions. Most things in sync. Each museum built on the previous one, so it was good learning. I think the thing that will haunt me the longest is the murder of Emmett Till.
We spent three-plus hours with Red Clay Tours, part walking / part driving. It’s a father, son team. White. Initially, I felt disappointed that we wouldn’t have a Black guide but not only was Mike extremely knowledgeable, he often modeled language of acknowledgment and atonement, giving his white customers another level of learning.
Birmingham has a nickname: Bombingham. You probably know that it was the site of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four girls. A devastating act of terror.
But bombings were so frequent that one whole section of town is nicknamed Dynamite Hill. Birmingham is a mining town (or was), meaning that dynamite was readily available. (Also meaning that its decline resembles that of Rust Belt cities.) Bad actors often flung lit sticks out of cars while driving by.
On Dynamite Hill, we saw houses with blackened bricks. Others with five foot cement brick walls around them. We heard stories about cars blowing up. Stories about the valor of men protecting leaders by being the one to turn the key.
We learned about how one of those leaders, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, pastor of the Bethel AME, emerged from the rubble of his bombed home, energized by his miraculous survival. He refused to rebuild the structure.
It’s quite astonishing that more people weren’t killed. It’d be tempting to sneer at the incompetence of white supremacists if it weren’t for the fact that even with minimal loss of life the bombings created pervasive and abject terror.
That same morning we learned about the marches that led to Birmingham’s desegration in 1963, including The Children’s Crusade. Next post.
Readers: if anything here is wrong or needs refined/updated, please let me know. There was A LOT of information in a week and I’m bound to get things wrong here and there. And PS first versions of this post erroneously included a photo of Dexter AME, not Bethel.
PPS I took that video above in our hotel, Hampton Inn/The Tutwiler. It took a lot of tries because often someone was waiting for the elevator (imagine their surprise) when the doors opened and I had to start over. It was worth it to me to look weird and possibly even suspicious to highlight the very cool black and white photos. They graced every landing and the inside of the elevator doors.
It’s a good day to finish this little Village Quilt. I’ll fold the top edge over for a dowel sleeve and trim the edges. I ended up putting a layer of cotton batting in this one.
Also a good day to put garden things away and bring more plants indoors. Pillows and rugs are out for sun and air. I wiped away the mold lining the plastic rails of one section of the deck (only eight sections to go). Vacuumed the downstairs and wiped crud off a few kitchen cupboards.
But here’s the thing about domestic chores: they satisfy the soul; they enhance the peace of one’s space; they make one feel virtuous. At a time of horrific news, it’s hard not to think of these jobs as anything but privileges.
Speaking of homes. The wasp’s nest that I found recently seemed, at first glance, completely dried out and empty. After several days of rain, this morning I picked up the now-soggy structure and saw the tip of a wasp head. By squeezing, not unlike releasing cloves from a baked head of garlic, a body emerged. There were many more.
I don’t think I did anything to speed their demise but I’m not really sure. It’s been just sitting outside since I picked it up, just as it would’ve sat on the median strip of grass had I not picked it up. Anyone know these things?
K and I watched The Burial last night. Great characters, based on a true story, one about the little guy taking on the big, fat, greedy, smug, rapacious corporate guy. Who doesn’t love a David and Goliath story?
We have sun today after a pounding rain yesterday. I performed my usual neighborly duty of pulling amassed leaves from the sewer grate at the bottom of our street’s hill. Water collecting there can and has reached our basement. By the time I got out there, the water was three-four inches deep. Talk about satisfying jobs!
One tug, two, twelve — fistfuls of wet leaves tossed to the median in great splats until one eddy formed, and then another, and then a great onrush of water into a now echoing, revealed sewer. The puddle cleared in about ten minutes.
Clip from The Burial is 2m long and please know I don’t expect people to necessarily view it. I like to save these things for my own sense of things. It’s a wonderful monologue though and speaks to so much of what is wrong with the right wing’s critiques of CRT, their book burning, etc.
Believe me, I know that “etc.” is doing a lot of work here.
It’s one of those days where the temperature is [number in the high eighties/low nineties] but feels like [number in the high nineties]. Boston is closing schools because of the heat [cue up local TV footage of box fans arriving at old brick schools in town]. Has that ever happened before? It’s MUGGY out there, a regular swampfest.
Finn and I headed out early and managed to walk the standard loop. My new big-brimmed cotton hat is a godsend.
While walking, I listened to a couple of episodes of this podcast. A group of us will discuss it tomorrow morning. It’s about the beating of a Black teenaged boy, Lenard Clark, in the late 90’s and the weird alliances that formed in the violence’s wake (not to mention the disappearance of one witness and murder of another and rumored ties of the perpetrator’s family to the Mob).
Calls for reconciliation were made by the perpetrator’s family, Black ministers, and others, even as Lenard remained in a coma. The narrator, a journalist named Yohance Lacour, examines both the impact that had on the community and on him personally. His story telling style is really compelling but you’ll have to listen for yourself because I haven’t yet figured why exactly. I think I fell a little bit in love with him by the end.
But I digress.
Lacour remembers the anger he and his friends felt upon finding out about Clark. He also remembers how quickly the story disappeared in a news ecosystem that seemed fixated with turning the tragedy into a tale of racial reconciliation, he said.