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1963, the pivotal year for civil rights

George Curry | 9/23/2013, 11:42 a.m.
George Curry

Of course, 250,000 gathered Aug. 28, 1963, for the March on Washington. Much has been written about the march as part of the 50th anniversary celebration, so I won’t devote much space here except to note that the news media was fixated on the possibility of the march turning violent. But, as the Baltimore Sun noted, only three people were arrested that day and “not one was a Negro.”

Like the desegregation of the University of Alabama, White racists were eager to “send a message” that the March on Washington would not change their world.

In the wee hours of Sunday, Sept. 15, four Klansmen – Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Blanton, Herman Frank and Robert Chambliss – planted a box of dynamite with a time delay under the steps of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., a rallying point in the city for civil rights activities. At 10:22 a.m., the bomb went off, killing four young girls – Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair – and injuring 22 others.

Although the violent message was supposed to remind Blacks that there were no safe places for them, not even church, Blacks sent a more lasting message by continuing to desegregate public facilities in Birmingham and across the South.

The enormous sacrifices of 1963 were not in vain. They provided the groundwork for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. It was a year worth remembering.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service. He is a keynote speaker, moderator and media coach. Curry can be reached through his website, http://www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at http://www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.