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Birmingham Riot 1963,
Birmingham, Alabama
May 02, 1963

Agencies: Birmingham Police Department Alabama

Last updated: 5 months ago

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The Birmingham riot of 1963 was a civil disorder in Birmingham, Alabama, that was provoked by bombings on the night of May 11, 1963. The bombings targeted black leaders of the Birmingham campaign, a mass protest for racial justice. The places bombed were the parsonage of Rev. A. D. King, brother of Martin Luther King, Jr., and a motel owned by A. G. Gaston, where King and others organizing the campaign had stayed. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leader of the Birmingham civil rights campaign which had been conducted that spring, with large, nonviolent demonstrations resulting in the mass arrest of schoolchildren who were trying to take a walk to Birmingham City Hall to talk to the mayor about segregation.

Witnesses saw Birmingham police place bombs at the parsonage, which was partially destroyed. All the family escaped. It was believed that the bombings were most likely planned and carried out by members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Since the 1950s, KKK members in Birmingham had used bombings against civil rights leaders and blacks who started to move into good neighborhoods.

After the attacks, blacks in the area began to riot because of the police involvement and were repressed severely by the Birmingham Police Department. The United States government intervened with federal troops for the first time to control violence during a civil rights related riot. It was also the first time the government had used military troops independently of enforcing a court injunction, an action was considered controversial by Governor George Wallace and other Alabama whites. The bombings and police response were a pivotal event that contributed to President Kennedy's decision to propose civil rights legislation to achieve relief of injustice. It was ultimately passed under President Lyndon B. Johnson as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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