1963 Children’s Crusade Re-Enactment


Friday, May 8th 10:00am

via Facebook Live

Join the virtual march as we remember the past and ignite the future by educating young people about the power of civic engagement.

Early in 1963, Civil Rights leaders in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and other civil rights groups developed a plan to desegregate Birmingham, a city notorious for its discriminatory practices in employment and public life. The goal of the plan was to use tactics of non-violent protest to provoke Birmingham civic and business leaders to agree to desegregate. The demonstrations started in April 1963 as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Reverend Ralph Abernathy, and local leader Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth led thousands of African-American protesters in Birmingham.

As the campaign continued that month, SCLC leader James Bevel started to enact plans for a “Children’s Crusade” that he and other leaders believed might help turn the tide in Birmingham. Thousands of children were trained in the tactics of non-violence. On May 2nd, they left the 16th Street Baptist Church and St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in groups, heading throughout the city to protest segregation peacefully. One of their goals was to talk to the mayor of Birmingham about segregation in their city. They were not met with a peaceful response.

On the first day of the protest, hundreds of children were arrested. By the second day, Commissioner of Public Safety Bull O’Connor ordered police to spray the children with powerful water hoses, hit them with batons, and threaten them with police dogs. Despite this harsh treatment, children continued to volunteer to participate in the demonstrations over the next few days. Footage and photographs of the violent crackdown in Birmingham circulated throughout the nation and the world, causing an outcry. The Children’s Crusade marked a significant victory in Birmingham.

The city was in the world spotlight, and local officials knew that they could no longer ignore the Civil Rights Movement. Despite this violent reaction to the movement for equality and justice, everyday people in Birmingham continued their efforts. And thousands of children, some of them as young as 7 or 8 years old, had kept the momentum of the struggle going in its most pivotal hour.


Sunday: 1:00 PM – 5:00 P.M.

Tuesday – Saturday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 P.M.












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