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

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    Carry-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society, so here's the deal with pizza, Chinese food and what racism has to do with taking food to go

    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.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora