Birmingham Church Bombing
A hotbed of Klan activity, Birmingham, Alabama was also a center for the coal and steel industries. Dynamite was readily available and many knew how to use it. In the late 50's and early 60's the city became known to locals as Bombingham for the series of 28 unsolved bombings directed against civil rights leaders and prominent black citizens.
By September 9, 1963, when five black students integrated Birmingham schools, tension was already unbearably high. The previous Spring, Martin Luther King, Fred Shuttlesworth and other local SCLC leaders had undertaking a prolonged campaign to integrate downtown Birmingham's stores and lunch counters. Commissioner of Public Safety, 'Bull' Conner had responded with dogs, fire hoses, beatings and massive arrests. While King's movement adhered to a discipline of nonviolence, other blacks responded to the provocation with stones, bricks and prolonged rioting. And in middle class neighborhoods (including one known as Dynamite Hill), blacks armed themselves and organized vigilante groups to protect their homes. On September 17, Klansmen bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church, a center of civil rights activity, killing four young girls and bringing the community to the brink of armed conflict. Governor George Wallace ordered 300 Alabama troopers into Birmingham where the maintained a kind of marginal order, shooting blacks (killing one) and terrorizing the community.
Our story ends with the solemn funeral of three of the girls. King spoke to an overflow crowd of 8000, including 800 black and white ministers, the largest integrated gathering in Birmingham history.