Police Attacked Kids With Dogs, Water Cannons in Birmingham 60 Years Ago Today

Sixty years in the past immediately is named “D-Day” in Birmingham, Alabama, when 1000’s of kids started a 10-week-long collection of protests towards segregation that grew to become generally known as the Youngsters’s Campaign. A whole lot had been arrested. The following day, “Double D-Day,” the native head of the police, Bull Connor, ordered his white police pressure to start utilizing high-pressure hearth hoses and canine to assault the youngsters. One {photograph} captured the second when a white police officer allowed a big German shepherd canine to assault a younger Black boy. 4 months after the protests started, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Black Birmingham church, killing 4 younger women — Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair. We revisit the historical past of the Youngsters’s Campaign with two visitors: civil rights activist Janice Kelsey, who joined the Youngsters’s Campaign as a 16-year-old in 1963, and creator Paul Kix.


This can be a rush transcript. Copy might not be in its closing kind.

AMY GOODMAN: We flip now to look again at an historic protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 60 years in the past immediately. Starting Could 2nd, 1963, 1000’s of kids started a week-long collection of protests towards segregation in Birmingham. The marketing campaign got here generally known as the Youngsters’s Campaign. When the youngsters took to the streets, the native head of the police, Bull Connor, used high-pressure hearth hoses and canine to assault the youngsters, a lot of whom had been arrested. Photographs of the police violence was broadcast all over the world. One {photograph} captured the second when a white police officer allowed a big German shepherd canine to assault a younger Black boy. The Youngsters’s Campaign started on the sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church. 4 months after the protests started, the Ku Klux Klan bombed the church, killing 4 little women — Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair.

In a second, we’ll be joined by two visitors to speak concerning the Youngsters’s Campaign in Birmingham, however first let’s flip to the scholar and activist Angela Davis, who grew up in Birmingham. That is Angela talking in 2013.

ANGELA DAVIS: And the way many people do not forget that it was younger youngsters — 11, 12, 13, 14 years previous, some as younger as 9 or 10 — who confronted police canine and confronted high-power water hoses and went to jail for our sake? And so, there’s deep symbolism in the truth that these 4 younger women’ lives had been consumed by that bombing. It was youngsters who had been urging us to think about a future that might be a way forward for equality and justice.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Angela Davis in 2013.

We’re joined now by two visitors. Paul Kix, author and creator of the brand new guide, You Must Be Ready to Die Earlier than You Can Start to Dwell: Ten Weeks in Birmingham That Modified America, he’s becoming a member of us from his dwelling in Connecticut. And in Birmingham, longtime civil rights activist Janice Kelsey is with us. She joined the Youngsters’s Campaign as a 16-year-old in 1963. She wrote about her expertise in her personal guide, I Woke Up with My Thoughts on Freedom.

We welcome you each to Democracy Now! Janice Kelsey, let’s start with you. It was 60 years in the past immediately. I’m positive for you it doesn’t appear that way back. Speak about what occurred.

JANICE KELSEY: I keep in mind, 60 years in the past immediately, I awakened with my thoughts on freedom. I had attended pupil nonviolent workshops, and I used to be ready, as a result of I lastly understood that it was extra than simply segregation, it was inequality. And Reverend James Bevel empowered us as youth to do one thing about it. And I used to be prepared to do this.

AMY GOODMAN: And discuss what you probably did. Speak about what it meant to take to the streets, and the police violence in response.

JANICE KELSEY: Properly, within the preparation classes that had been held at sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church, we had seen movie of demonstrations somewhere else, so I noticed individuals being hit, being referred to as names and being mistreated for demonstrating. We had been informed that in case you take part, a few of this may occasionally occur to you, however it is a nonviolent motion, and you can not reply, besides to wish or sing a freedom track. So I went into it figuring out that there could also be some stage of hazard, however I used to be so incensed at having been mistreated all these years, till I used to be prepared to sacrifice no matter was essential to take steps to vary the atmosphere.

AMY GOODMAN: Simply over 4 months later, the start of that Youngsters’s Campaign, the sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church, was bombed. 4 little women, 4 younger individuals, younger girls, had been killed. One in all them was Cynthia Wesley. You share the final identify of Cynthia Wesley, Janice — Cynthia. Clarify what occurred.

JANICE KELSEY: Properly, on that Sunday morning, I used to be on the church the place I attended. And we had a speaker up. Our pastor interrupted the speaker and introduced that sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church had been bombed and that there have been some casualties. And that meant somebody died. He mentioned a prayer, and he dismissed church. Properly, once we bought dwelling, individuals had been calling our dwelling. I’ve a big household. There have been 9 siblings. And my mother wouldn’t enable anybody else to reply the cellphone. And I stored on listening to her say, “No, not our household.”

Lastly, when the information got here on, the nationwide information, they recognized the casualties. Cynthia Wesley was one. I met Cynthia in elementary college when she was adopted by Claude and Gertrude Wesley, who had been educators and associates of our household however not associated. I used to be invited to come back to their dwelling for garden events. We went on subject journeys collectively. And Cynthia had simply come to my highschool. She was a ninth grader. I used to be an eleventh grader. And I had not identified anybody in my age group to die, not to mention to be killed at church. I used to be devastated to listen to Cynthia had died.

However there was a reference to the opposite women, as effectively. Carole Robertson’s father, Alvin Robertson, was my band instructor in elementary college. And his spouse taught on the identical college the place my sister taught, they usually had been associates. Denise McNair was 11, and her father, Chris McNair, was our milkman. He used to ship milk and juice to the house. Addie Collins, I didn’t know her household, however she had a sister in the identical class with one in all my brothers.

And I used to be simply devastated, as a result of I believed individuals had been happy with the braveness that we had displayed within the spring of the 12 months. I didn’t comprehend it made somebody so indignant that they might react in such a violent method.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s convey Paul Kix into this dialog, who has simply revealed the guide immediately, You Must Be Ready to Die Earlier than You Can Start to Dwell: Ten Weeks in Birmingham That Modified America. Paul, in case you can discuss why you wrote this guide? Speak about your interracial household, George Floyd, and the way that connects to what started 60 years in the past immediately.

PAUL KIX: I’ll take the final half first. I imply, there was — from emancipation in 1863 to 1963, there have been no — there was no equality, no sense of something. That spring modified the whole lot. And to have anyone like Janice — to have the ability to share this section with somebody like Janice is simply — it offers me goosebumps, as a result of simply behind me you see my twin boys. I married my spouse Sonya in a Jim Crow state of Texas. We dwell immediately on a shaded road the place no person harasses us for who we’re. That’s due to what Janice simply talked about. It’s the power to not solely, you already know, put your life on the road within the second, however to consider the lives forward, the individuals sooner or later that may profit out of your actions in Birmingham.

So, my spouse Sonya grew up in inner-city Houston, one neighborhood away from the place George Floyd grew up. She had — her cousins went to the identical highschool, Yates Excessive, as George. Sonya was the identical age as George when George was murdered, 46.

And so, that’s a protracted strategy to say that we didn’t protect our children from that type of protection. It was the primary time they’d ever seen one thing like that occur, the place an harmless Black man was killed by cops. And our twin boys, who’re, once more, behind me there in that picture, they had been then 9. That they had a variety of questions on what that meant for America. There was a — 2020, the latter half of 2020, was an extremely tough time. The boys would usually run from the room in tears due to what they noticed of George Floyd, due to what they noticed — Jacob Blake was anyone else who was shot, by Kenosha, Wisconsin, cops. You recognize, one in all my twin boys ran from the room, saying, “Why do they preserve making an attempt to kill us?” It was a tough time, 2020.

And I settled on a guide venture that in a short time grew to become a household venture, which was a strategy to attempt to encourage our three children about how they may have braveness in their very own lives. And that extends again to what I see as essentially the most pivotal interval in the entire of the twentieth century, and that’s the spring of 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, and specifically what occurred on Could 2nd and on Could third and on Could 4th — excuse me — D-Day, Double D-Day, and thru that weekend — the Youngsters’s Campaign.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me flip to Vincent Harding for a second. In 2008, I interviewed Vincent Harding, the pioneering historian, theologian and civil rights activist. In 1963, Martin Luther King invited him to come back to Birmingham, Alabama, to assist with the marketing campaign.

VINCENT HARDING: King got here particularly to our consideration there in Birmingham as a result of there was an entire growth by which most of the protesters had been younger individuals, and in some instances youngsters, who got here to play an important position in main the wrestle towards segregation, partly as a result of most of the adults had been afraid to, couldn’t afford to, had been frightened about what would occur to them and their livelihoods in the event that they did it. And the youngsters took the position. They had been arrested, after the canine and the fireplace hoses. They had been put in jail. They weren’t ready, after some time — SCLC wasn’t capable of get all the bond cash that was wanted to get everybody out. And King, I keep in mind very a lot, one Friday afternoon, in his motel room, merely mentioned, “I don’t know what I can do to get the cash to get these of us out, younger and previous, however I do know that what I can do is to go in there with them.” And so, he then led a march that was towards the regulation on the time, and he was arrested and put into jail. It was in that context that he took the chance to work on that now-famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

AMY GOODMAN: That was the late Vincent Harding in 2008, the good historian, scholar and pastor. He helped write King’s well-known antiwar speech, “Past Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence.” Properly, that is Dr. Martin Luther King studying a part of his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” from the documentary King: A Filmed Document.

REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: You deplore the demonstrations going down in Birmingham. However your assertion, I’m sorry to say, fails to precise an analogous concern for the situations that introduced concerning the demonstrations. … Birmingham might be essentially the most totally segregated metropolis in america. Its ugly document of brutality is broadly identified. … There have been extra unsolved bombings of Negro houses and church buildings in Birmingham than in another metropolis within the nation. These are the arduous, brutal information of the case. …

Chances are you’ll effectively ask: “Why direct motion? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a greater path?” … Nonviolent direct motion seeks to create such a disaster and foster such a pressure {that a} neighborhood which has always refused to barter is pressured to confront the difficulty. …

You communicate of our exercise in Birmingham as excessive. … Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” … Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? …

I’ve no despair concerning the future. I’ve no concern concerning the consequence of our wrestle in Birmingham, even when our motives are at current misunderstood. We are going to attain the aim of freedom in Birmingham and everywhere in the nation, as a result of the aim of America is freedom. … We are going to win our freedom as a result of the sacred heritage of our nation and the everlasting will of the Almighty God are embodied in our echoing calls for.

AMY GOODMAN: From the documentary King: A Filmed Document, Dr. Martin Luther King studying his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which he had written simply weeks earlier than the Youngsters’s Campaign. Paul Kix, you talked about D-Day and Double D-Day, the horrific image that begins your guide, this well-known picture from — it was Could third, 1963, of the 14-year-old African American boy, this German shepherd biting his abdomen. And he’s — he has such poise. He doesn’t appear to be responding, however with dignity. Speak about D-Day and Double D-Day.

PAUL KIX: It altered the whole lot. Janice was saying only a second in the past about Reverend James Bevel. To enter D-Day and Double D-Day was successfully as a result of there was no different selection. Birmingham adults weren’t going to protest. They might very probably lose their jobs. That’s what James Bevel realized. So, what the youngsters did, we’ve seen these photographs. We’ve seen individuals like Janice being attacked with hearth hoses. However I simply wish to body for the viewers what that truly meant.

These hearth hoses had been mounted on metallic tripods that, frankly, seemed prefer it was meant for artillery. It might knock mortar free from brick. It might strip bark from a tree at a distance of greater than 100 ft. Numerous occasions children had been hit at lower than 50 ft. Among the uncooked footage from that day exhibits — from Double D-Day exhibits simply horrific, horrific violence, children’ garments simply principally disintegrating on them because the water hits them, children backflipped within the air because the water hits their face or chest, children writhing in ache because the Birmingham Fireplace Division and Birmingham Police Division preserve the water hose proper on them, at a distance of, once more, 15 ft. Typically there was a lady — I’ll always remember this. There was a lady in Birmingham who was slid down the road by the ability of the fireplace hose as she is simply writhing in ache and screaming in terror, 50 ft, 60 ft, 70 ft. The digicam crews simply watched her cross. Then there have been the German shepherds, like Walter Gadsden, the boy you referenced a second in the past.

The violence was so grotesque that there have been actually warfare photographers who had been there, who had seen battle in World Battle II, they usually mentioned this was as unhealthy as something they’d ever seen. There was a New York Occasions reporter by the identify of R. W. Apple, who would later be famed, and he mentioned he had by no means, throughout all of his years, in all of quite a few warfare zones, he had by no means seen something like the pictures out of Double D-Day, Could third, 1963. He had by no means seen that stage of violence anyplace else in his life.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to interrupt.

PAUL KIX: And so, that’s what occurred on that day. The braveness that these children confirmed that day, the religion that they confirmed, that these photographs would truly alter America, once more, it led me to jot down this guide, as a result of I consider so fiercely that these 10 weeks, that week specifically, the week that we’re in proper now, altered America without end, and for the higher.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re speaking to Paul Kix, creator of You Must Be Ready to Die Earlier than You Can Start to Dwell: Ten Weeks in Birmingham That Modified America, and Janice Kelsey, longtime civil rights activist. She was 16 when she participated within the Youngsters’s Campaign. We’re going to interrupt, then coming again to speak extra about this pivotal second in historical past. Stick with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “Alabama” by John Coltrane, recorded in 1963 after the September bombing of the sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church that killed 4 little women. That is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Battle and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

In 2013, I interviewed Sarah Collins Rudolph, who survived the bombing of the sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, September 15, 1963. She was 12 years previous, hit with shards of glass, misplaced an eye fixed, was hospitalized for months. Her older sister, Addie Mae Collins, who was 14, died within the blast. Sarah Collins Rudolph described what occurred.

SARAH COLLINS RUDOLPH: Sure. I used to be within the women’ lounge when the bomb went off. You recognize, I keep in mind Cynthia, Denise and Carole strolling contained in the lounge space and went in the place the stalls was. So after they got here out, Denise handed by Addie and requested my sister to tie the sash on her gown. And I used to be throughout from them on the sink. And when Denise requested her to tie the sash, and I used to be taking a look at her when she started to tie it, after which unexpectedly, growth! I by no means did see her end it, end tying it. So, all I might do was say, name out, “Jesus!” as a result of I didn’t know what that loud sound was. After which I referred to as my sister, “Addie! Addie! Addie!” And she or he didn’t reply me. So, I believed that they’d — the women had ran on the opposite aspect of the church the place the Sunday college space was.

However unexpectedly I heard a voice outdoors saying, “Any person bombed the sixteenth Avenue church!” And it was so clear to me, as if that this particular person was proper there, however they was outdoors the place the crater was, a bomb within the church — the place it bombed the outlet there. And all of the particles got here dashing in, and I used to be hit in my face with glass and in addition in my — each eyes. Properly, when the person got here in — his identify’s Samuel Rutledge — he got here in and picked me up and carried me out of the crater, and the ambulance was on the market ready. They usually rushed me to Hillman Hospital, which they modified the identify. It’s now UAB Hospital. …

In order that they rushed me on as much as the working room, they usually operated on each of my eyes and took the glass from out of my face. And I had glass in my chest and abdomen. In order that they operated on me. And once I went again to the room — and I stayed there within the hospital for about two-and-a-half months. However at the moment, after they took the bandages off my eyes, the physician requested me what do I see out of my proper eye. I informed him I couldn’t see something out of my proper eye. And when he took it off my left eye, all I might see was just a bit mild.

AMY GOODMAN: And, after all, you misplaced your sister, as effectively, Addie Mae Collins, your older sister. You had been 12. She was 14. Did you’re feeling you may not discover a protected place? I imply, in spite of everything, you had been bombed in a church, the place you went for sanctuary.

SARAH COLLINS RUDOLPH: Sure, you’d suppose that going to church can be a protected place, nevertheless it wasn’t. You recognize, anyone that might put a bomb in a church and kill 4 harmless women, you already know, that’s simply the work of the satan, as a result of that shouldn’t by no means have occurred. These women was younger, and we was ready that day for a youth service. However by the bomb going off, we didn’t get an opportunity to attend youth service.

AMY GOODMAN: That graphic description of the bombing that occurred 4 months — a bit greater than 4 months after the Youngsters’s Campaign. We’re persevering with with Janice Kelsey, whose identify was just like Cynthia Wesley, one of many 4 women who was killed, and so individuals referred to as in condolences to Janice’s household, pondering possibly it was her. However she was energetic within the Youngsters’s Campaign on the age of 16 in Birmingham, Alabama. And we’re joined by Paul Kix, creator of You Must Be Ready to Die, that chronicles this pivotal second in U.S. historical past. Janice Kelsey, after the protests — and also you had been arrested on this interval 60 years in the past?

JANICE KELSEY: Sixty years in the past immediately, I used to be arrested for parading and not using a allow.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you ever get slammed by these water hoses, or had been you arrested earlier than?

JANICE KELSEY: I used to be arrested earlier than the water hoses and the canine.

AMY GOODMAN: To point out, I feel, how highly effective your protest was, possibly in case you might discuss those that criticized King and the opposite leaders, saying, “You shouldn’t put youngsters on the frontline”? I feel that was Malcolm X who mentioned, “Actual males don’t put their youngsters on the firing line.” Robert Kennedy additionally criticized this technique. Your response to them?

JANICE KELSEY: Properly, we didn’t have another selection. If our mother and father had protested, they might have misplaced their jobs. They might have gone to jail. There was nobody to deal with us. However as Bevel identified to us, we actually didn’t have something to lose. We had been getting a second-class schooling. We had all types of inequities placed on us. And if we wished that to vary, we had been going to be the change brokers. We didn’t have something to lose.

AMY GOODMAN: Paul Kix, in case you might discuss a secret assembly that was held that included James Bevel and Dr. King, after which the unbelievable fundraiser that was held in Harry Belafonte’s condo — who we simply misplaced on the age of 96 — and what that meant for this motion?

PAUL KIX: So, in January of 1963, the SCLC had a secret assembly in Dorchester, Georgia. They usually didn’t even invite all the government administrators. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t even invite his personal father to this assembly, as a result of they wished to debate what they referred to as essentially the most harmful concept within the civil rights motion, and that was: Ought to we go to Birmingham?

And it was an enormous danger, as a result of the SCLC was broke. The SCLC had been criticized for years for ineffective management. The SCLC, only one 12 months prior, had staged a large and completely abysmal failure of a marketing campaign in Albany, Georgia. The SCLCwas sneered at by different civil rights teams on the identical time, by the identical token that they had been sneered at by the press, be it Northern press or Southern press. And so, this marketing campaign, they determined, we’re — in that secret assembly in Dorchester, they thought, “Properly, we’re both going to interrupt segregation in Birmingham, or we’re going to be damaged by it.” There was an actual concern that the SCLC would die because of this. And actually, there was an actual concern that a variety of SCL members would truly die in Birmingham only for participating. King even delivered mock eulogies in Birming — excuse me, in Dorchester, in preparation for what they thought Birmingham can be like.

After which, to — you requested, the opposite half of that is Harry Belafonte, and he performed —

AMY GOODMAN: And so, that was Bevel, Shuttlesworth, King and Abernathy who had this secret assembly.

PAUL KIX: There have been some — the accounts range as to what number of there have been. It’s someplace between 11 and 15 individuals. There have been a couple of different individuals there, as effectively. However, sure, there was a core group of individuals there. It was Fred Shuttlesworth. Wyatt Walker was there. James Bevel was there. King was there. These are the 4 people who ended up being the 4 protagonists in my guide.

After which, a secondary character, and massively influential all through your complete marketing campaign, was Harry Belafonte. And if we flash ahead a duplicate of months — this secret assembly occurs in January of 1963. In late March of 1963, simply days earlier than Undertaking Confrontation, because it was identified, the Birmingham marketing campaign — that was a secret identify for it, Undertaking Confrontation. Simply days earlier than that marketing campaign launched, there was the simply as giant gamble as to how precisely they had been going to attempt to finance it. And they also go to Harry Belafonte’s condo in New York. And whereas they’re there, Fred Shuttlesworth, who was sort of a regionally identified civil rights activist — Janice would know who he was — however he was a Birmingham pastor who was completely fearless. And he wowed the donors there that night time, with simply principally tales of his braveness and bravado and religion. And on the finish of his speech, he mentioned, “It’s important to be ready to die earlier than you possibly can start to dwell.” And that was the road that simply amazed the donors. And that night time in Belafonte’s condo, they raised $475,000 for the Birmingham marketing campaign, which is akin, I feel, immediately — I don’t have the calculator in entrance of me, however one thing like $4 million in trendy forex. And it was the largest-ever — it was the largest-ever fundraiser within the SCLC’s historical past, and that was the cash that they used, orchestrated nearly totally by Harry Belafonte, to then go into Birmingham.

AMY GOODMAN: Lastly, Janice Kelsey, we simply have a minute, however I wished to finish together with your voice. Sixty years in the past immediately, you had been arrested within the Youngsters’s Campaign. Your ideas at this second and message about what’s taking place immediately?

JANICE KELSEY: It’s very discouraging and scary to see leaders in legislatures and governors who’re making an attempt to push again on the positive aspects that had been made because of the large sacrifices that had been made by younger individuals 60 years in the past, not simply individuals like me who went to jail, however individuals just like the 4 women who had been killed at church, and the 4 younger males who had been killed within the communities that very same Sunday. Numerous blood sacrifice went forth to ensure that us to realize the measures that had been gained. And it’s scary to see the massive push by individuals in management positions to return to the best way we had been. And I’m hoping and praying that our younger individuals will step up once more and say, “No, we’re not going again.”

AMY GOODMAN: Janice Kelsey —

JANICE KELSEY: That’s what these two legislators did.

AMY GOODMAN: Thanks a lot for being with us, longtime civil rights activist in Birmingham, Alabama. And Paul Kix, You Must Be Ready to Die, his new guide. Thanks.

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