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

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs