- Category: Race & Liberation
- Created on Monday, 21 January 2008 11:34
- Written by Mike Ely
Four Little Girls and the Fight For Freedom
by Mike Ely
Originally written in 1998, posted here for Martin Luther King's birthday January 15, 2008. I also urge you to view Spike Lee's powerful film Four Little Girls.
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It was 1963. One hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of slavery, Birmingham was still a stronghold of racism and Jim Crow segregation. The city was a modern industrial powerhouse of coal and steel. It was run on behalf of the largest monopoly corporations by a hateful, narrow-minded white-racist powerstructure. Thirty-eight percent of the population was Black--living under infuriating conditions of discrimination and poverty.In the downtown department stores, Black people were free to buy whatever their paychecks could afford--but they were forbidden to use the restrooms, or order a grilled cheese at the lunch counters, or get a job behind one of the cash registers. Signs everywhere said "Whites Only."
In Birmingham, like in most of the South, many white people still insultingly called adult Black people by their first names--and Black men were often casually called "boy." Schools were segregated --and the education for Black children was starkly inferior and underfunded.
This unjust setup was enforced by a brutal and racist police department and by the Ku Klux Klan movement, the semi-official terror arm of the powerstructure. Birmingham was already known for nighttime bombing attacks on the Black community by white supremacists.
Birmingham had been like this for a long time, and many people thought it would never change. But this was 1963, and Black people were starting to feel deeply that time was up--been up!--for the structure and tradition of white supremacy. All across the South, and increasingly in the North, different organizing projects were mobilizing people to challenge and defy the system. And they would be met with all the brutality and deception that this system could muster.
Fighting the Pharaohs of Birmingham