News / USA

Safe House Provided Security for Martin Luther King During 1963 Campaign

Chris Simkins
Martin Luther King Jr. came to Birmingham in 1963, to the place he called the most racially segregated city in the United States.

"To dramatize this blatant injustice," he said. "And to demand that the federal government not put a cent in this city unless it decides to face the realities of desegregation."

King and other civil rights leaders launched a campaign pressing the city to abolish laws that kept blacks and whites separated in schools, restaurants and other public places.

Some of the protests turned violent and hundreds of demonstrators were arrested.

To escape the chaos and have a place to work, King sought refuge inside a Birmingham safe house. Jeff Drew, a civil rights activist whose parents were friends of Dr. King, now owns the home.  

"He could do what he wanted, when he wanted and how he wanted, without fear of any reprisal inside these walls. It gave him the sanctuary to pray, to think and write," he said.

But this neighborhood was anything but quiet 50 years ago, as there were numerous racially motivated bombings at homes, giving this community the nickname Dynamite Hill.

Bomb's exploded nearby and the house came under fire from white segregationists.

"This room was protected by that big wall out there to stop the bullets from coming in here," said Drew. He said King stayed at the house 20 times during the Birmingham campaign. He slept in this bedroom and during the day met with civil rights leaders to map out strategy and negotiate a settlement with white business owners.

"Right here was where the end of the Birmingham business boycott was negotiated. Business leaders agreed to hire blacks as sales people and to remove the colored and white signs at the bathrooms and water fountains," he said.

Drew also remembers listening to a tense telephone conversation between King and President John Kennedy when King demand that the federal government stop the violence.

"His [King's] side of the conversation went like this, 'We want the entire country to know that your administration supports racial inequality here in Birmingham, and brutality as well. And so we are going to continue the demonstration,' and he hung the phone up, slammed the phone down."

The next morning Drew said federal troops dispatched by the president set up a command post outside the home, and tensions eased.

Lawrence Pijeaux, President of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute said King's success in the city had an impact nationwide. "In legislation that provided an opportunity for our people to have access to important things: education, housing, healthcare, voting rights. Those things came about primarily because of what happen in Birmingham, Alabama," he said

Drew wants to preserve the house to remind people of the sacrifices made by King and thousands of African Americans.

>>> Check out VOA's special section on Martin Luther King Jr. <<<

You May Like

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Lee from: South
January 18, 2014 4:19 PM
To those who read for the facts, rather then just in support of the agenda, there was a quickly glossed over fact in this story
That was the point, clearly made by Dr. King to the point of the Democrate administration's pro racism views. So given that such views appear to be prevasive even forty years later I have to wonder, out loud, how does a party with at least forty years of vaifiable racisim practices continue to garner the majority of the votes of those whom they continue to hold back and/or abuse? It just seems to defy logic.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs