Races: Freedom--Now

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Robert McNamara. Finally the businessmen gave halfhearted agreement to King's demands—but there was no assurance that they could persuade Birmingham's segregationist politicians to go along. "We'll Kill You." It was a truce—but there was to be no peace. Saturday night, after a Ku Klux Klan meeting near Birmingham, two dynamite bombs demolished the home of the Rev. A. D. King, brother of Martin King. The minister, his wife and five children raced to safety just before the second blast. Suddenly, the street filled with Negroes. They hurled stones at policemen, slashed car tires. Within the hour two more bombs exploded at the Gaston Motel, headquarters of the demonstrations. And Birmingham went to war. Thousands of enraged Negroes surged through the streets, flinging bricks, brandishing knives, pummeling policemen. A white cab driver was knifed, his taxi overturned and burned. A policeman was stabbed in the back and a white youngster's arm was slashed from shoulder to elbow. Negroes put a torch to a white man's delicatessen, fought off firemen as they arrived to put out the blaze. Two Negro homes nearby went up in flames, then three more white men's buildings. The rioters, bathed in the flickering orange light of the flames, looted a liquor store and screamed into the night: "White man, we'll kill you!" Miraculously, there were no deaths. But Bull Connor's cops, frazzled from weeks of pressure, were all but helpless. Negro rioters ruled almost until dawn Sunday and calm came only after 250 Alabama state troopers invaded the city. As the sun rose Sunday, a sullen peace descended on Birmingham. There had been no winners in a war that had no heroes. Bull Connor was by no means Birmingham's only shame; the city's newspapers, for example, put the story of the midweek riot on an inside page (see PRESS). Yet at the same time, Negro Leader King could be criticized for using children as shock troops and for inciting the protests even as a new, relatively moderate city administration was about to take over Birmingham. President Kennedy also came in for criticism. At his press conference, Kennedy claimed that the Federal Government had done all it legally could do about Birmingham. But that, insisted other leaders, both white and Negro, was untrue. Said Harvard Law School Dean Erwin Griswold, a member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission: "It seems clear to me that he hasn't even started to use the powers that are available to him." Said N.A.A.C.P. Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins: "White people in Alabama make it impossible for us even to debate whether the President should act. My objectivity went out the window when I saw the picture of those cops sitting on that woman and holding her down by the throat." Birmingham's Negroes were certainly not worried about legalities; they were not worried about the niceties of "timing," or even about the morality of using children as troops. Instead, theirs was a raging desire to achieve equal human status—now, and by whatever means. Massachusetts Attorney General Edward Brooke, a Negro, expressed it well: "The pressure is mounting. It has been smoldering for some time—many, many years. And it is a justifiable impatience." Bob Eckhardt, a white and a member of the Texas Legislature, put it another way: "The
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