Posted on 04/02/2016

Photo taken on March 31, 2016

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Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham, Alabama.

"The dynamite blast that shattered the house of Sam Matthews on 18 August 1947 marked the first in a series of racially motivated bombings brought on by the postwar transformation of Birmingham, Alabama. Although racial attacks occurred in other southern cities, the frequency and number of fire bombings in Birmingham-some fifty between 1947 and 1965-made the city unusually prominent and gave rise to the sobriquet “Bombingham.” The first victims were African Americans who had responded to a postwar shortage of black housing by moving onto the fringes of white neighborhoods. In time, civil rights integrationists and their churches also became targets. White vigilantes saw terrorism as a defense of white supremacy; African Americans reacted to the dynamite attacks by defending black property rights. What African American journalist Louis Lomax has termed Birmingham’s “traditonal Negro leadership class”’ first sought a solution within the confines of the so-called Jim Crow conventions, but the failure of white political leaders to address the black housing shortage drove black home owners to challenge the color line. A legal battle ensued over Birmingham’s unconstitutional racial zoning ordinance. An analysis of residential bombings in postwar Birmingham reveals the evolution of black protest from a request for separate but equal public services to a demand for full integration."
Eskew, G. T. (1997), ”Bombingham”: Black Protest in Postwar Birmingham, Alabama. Historian, 59: 371–390. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6563.1997.tb00997.x

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William Sutherland
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