Bombingham Alabama

Bombingham AlabamaToday we talk about terrorists, but this is not new.  The tensions in Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1950's and 60's were so bad; whites and African Americans were afraid.  Dozens of bombings were committed by people that were never identified. Birmingham, Alabama, earned the nickname "Bombingham."  

The bombings were meant to "send a message" and instill fear so that no one would challenge segregation, officially part of the "old south."  Actually, different forms of segregation existed all over America.  Birmingham was a particularly violent and hostile community.  

Many don't like to talk about it, but terrorists from within threatened Americans.  Many forget that bombings did not stop in the 1960's.  In the 1990's there was a string of church fires and bombings.  Dangerous extremist groups still use bombing in America to create fear and force their narrow opinions on others.&

The situation was especially bad in Birmingham because the authorities in that community could not be trusted -- many local government and law enforcement agencies were full of Klu Klux Klan members. Klansmen often rode in city police cars on patrols.

Not all the police supported segregation and the KKK, but they were afraid for their jobs and families.  Eugene "Bull" Connor was a diehard supporter of segregation.  From 1948 to 1957, there were 48 unsolved racial bombings in Birmingham -- the most of any city in the US.  Given the connections between the KKK, local government, and law enforcement, it is not hard to see why.

In 1958, seven private homes and four churches were bombed in one month alone.  African Americans were moving into a predominately white neighborhood, Fountain Heights.  This is where most of the bombings occurred.  This part of town became known as "Dynamite Hill.

At his January, 1963, inauguration, Alabama Governor Gorge Wallace proclaimed, Segregation today... segregation tomorrow... segregation forever."  No wonder this was one of the most violent states in America.  Within that hotbed of hatred, Birmingham was its most hostile, brutal city.

The law could not or would not protect the citizens of Birmingham.  The State Governor, George Wallace, pardoned four Klansmen that were arrested, convicted, and sentenced for abducting and torturing a black handyman.  Governor Wallace gave no explanation of this decision.  This was justice in Alabama.

While bombings became a regular occurrence in Birmingham, the FBI was not tracking down the perpetrators.  The FBI's Director, J. Edgar Hoover, was conducting surveillance of a man of peace, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. instead.  Some believe that the FBI was actually behind some of the threats that Dr. King regularly received.

Martin Luther King once called Birmingham "the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States its ugly record of police brutality is known in every section of this country.

In the spring of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. came to Birmingham to organize people for change.  The situation in Birmingham greatly disturbed Dr. King.  He wrote," Its unjust treatment of Negroes in the courts is a notorious reality.  There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than any other city in this nation.

Dr. King, a peaceful man, negotiated with some local businesses to give up their segregated policies.  He organized nonviolent protests and marches.  The city of Birmingham responded with more bombings.  The summer of 1963 was exceptionally violent and ugly, even by Birmingham standards.

In August, 1963, a string of bombings in "Dynamite Hill" resulted in fighting.  During the chaos, police shot and killed an African American man.  Many more were wounded, injured, or arrested.  Young people, both African American and white.

Elizabeth H. Cobbs, author of the book, Long Time Coming stated "Most of us felt we were caught in a war zone.  We could feel the battle bearing down upon us.

No one felt safe, hatred flourished, and mistrust dominated.  It was clear that behind the scenes, the Klu Klux Klan was in control and able to strike at anytime, at any place.  Birmingham had fully earned the ugly nickname, "Bombingham.

By Bill Breitsprecher
©2006, Breitlinks
All Rights Reserved

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Church Bombing / Rev. James Bevel
In Their Own Words / More Resources