September 13, 2013
The Speech That Shocked Birmingham the Day After the Church Bombing

In the next few days, you are likely to be inundated with 50th anniversary reminiscences of the Birmingham church bombing of September 15, 1963, a blast that killed four young black children and intensified the struggle for civil rights in the South. This is as it should be. The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church was the most terrible act of one of the most terribly divisive periods in American history, and it’s not too much of a leap to suggest that all that came after it—including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965—would not have come as quickly as it did without the martyrdom of those little girls.
What you likely will not hear about in the next few days is what happened the day after the church bombing. On Monday, September 16, 1963, a young Alabama lawyer named Charles Morgan Jr., a white man with a young family, a Southerner by heart and heritage, stood up at a lunch meeting of the Birmingham Young Men’s Business Club, at the heart of the city’s white Establishment, and delivered a speech about race and prejudice that bent the arc of the moral universe just a little bit more toward justice. It was a speech that changed Morgan’s life—and 50 years later its power and eloquence are worth revisiting.
Read more. [Image: Associated Press]

The Speech That Shocked Birmingham the Day After the Church Bombing

In the next few days, you are likely to be inundated with 50th anniversary reminiscences of the Birmingham church bombing of September 15, 1963, a blast that killed four young black children and intensified the struggle for civil rights in the South. This is as it should be. The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church was the most terrible act of one of the most terribly divisive periods in American history, and it’s not too much of a leap to suggest that all that came after it—including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965—would not have come as quickly as it did without the martyrdom of those little girls.

What you likely will not hear about in the next few days is what happened the day after the church bombing. On Monday, September 16, 1963, a young Alabama lawyer named Charles Morgan Jr., a white man with a young family, a Southerner by heart and heritage, stood up at a lunch meeting of the Birmingham Young Men’s Business Club, at the heart of the city’s white Establishment, and delivered a speech about race and prejudice that bent the arc of the moral universe just a little bit more toward justice. It was a speech that changed Morgan’s life—and 50 years later its power and eloquence are worth revisiting.

Read more. [Image: Associated Press]

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    This is fucking intense and heartbreaking, and all of you should read it, because it begs the question how far have we...
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