Changing Sides

White rights in Birmingham

When blacks demanded civil rights in Birmingham during the early '60s, the Alabama city answered with police dogs and fire hoses. A decade later, blacks sued to integrate the same Birmingham police and fire departments that had forcibly put them down. After a drawn-out legal struggle, the city signed a consent decree in 1981, agreeing to hire minorities and women in about the same proportion as workers in the city's private sector: between 33% and 50% for blacks, and 15% and 30% for women. The U.S. Justice Department backed the...

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