Races: Freedom--Now

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The blaze of bombs, the flash of blades, the eerie glow of fire, the keening cries of hatred, the wild dance of terror in the night—all this was Birmingham, Ala. Birmingham's Negroes had always seemed a docile lot. Downtown at night, they slouched in gloomy huddles beneath street lamps, talking softly or not at all. They knew their place: they were "niggers"' in a Jim Crow town, and they bore their degradation in silence. But last week they smashed that image forever. The scenes in Birmingham were unforgettable. There was the Negro youth, sprawled on his back and spinning across the pavement, while firemen battered him with streams of water so powerful that they could strip bark off trees. There was the Negro woman, pinned to the ground by cops, one of them with his knee dug into her throat. There was the white man who watched hymn-singing Negroes burst from a sweltering church and growled: "We ought to shoot every damned one of them." And there was the little Negro girl, splendid in a newly starched dress, who marched out of a church, looked toward a massed line of pistol-packing cops, and called to a laggard friend: "Hurry up, Lucille. If you stay behind, you won't get arrested with our group." Finally, outlined against the flames that shot 150 ft. in the air, there was the mass of Negroes barring with their bodies and with a rain of rocks, bottles and bricks the firemen who had rushed to save a white man's store. For more than a month, Negro demonstrations in Birmingham had sputtered, bursting occasionally into flames, then flickering out. Martin Luther King, the Negroes' inspirational but sometimes inept leader, had picked this bastion of racial inequality for the crusade, "because Birmingham is the symbol of segregation." In the last six years, there have been 18 racial bombings (Negroes call it "Bombingham") and more than 50 cross-burnings. Schools are totally segregated. So are restaurants, drinking fountains, toilets. Birmingham gave up its professional baseball team rather than have it playing integrated teams in the International League. The Metropolitan Opera Company no longer visits the city, because officials refused to integrate the municipal auditorium. Parks were shut down last year, because officials would not integrate them after a court order. Unquestionably, Birmingham was the toughest segregation town in the South, from the Negroes' viewpoint. And it was symbolized by Public Safety Commissioner Eugene ("Bull") Connor, who had cowed Negroes for 23 years with hoarse threats and club-swinging cops. It was against Connor's Birmingham that King began secretly recruiting volunteers just before last Christmas. King and Connor clashed headon. The commissioner had his cops—plus a pack of snarling police dogs and a battery of high-pressure fire hoses. The Negro minister had only the determination and courage of his people. He had mobilized schoolchildren for his freedom parades. Hundreds of kids were in jail, and, as last week began, Birmingham was at the point of explosion. "Forgive Them." On Sunday, the Negroes tried, as they had before, to worship in white churches. But segregation in Birmingham's Christian churches is nearly as rigid as in public toilets: Negroes got into four churches, were ordered away from 17 others. Late in the

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