Children's Crusade (1963)

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The Birmingham Children's Crusade was a march by hundreds of school students in Birmingham, Alabama, May 2–5, 1963, during the American Civil Rights Movement's Birmingham campaign. Initiated and organized by Rev. James Bevel, the purpose of the march was to walk downtown to talk to the mayor about segregation in their city. Many children left their schools and were arrested, set free, and then arrested again the next day. The marches were stopped by the head of police "Bull Connor" who brought fire hoses to ward off the children and set police dogs after the children.

Malcolm X was opposed to the event because he thought it would expose the children to violence. He said, "Real men don't put their children on the firing line."

A pivotal civil rights campaign was fought in Birmingham, the most segregated city in the US. Fire hoses and dogs were used to prevent the students from meeting the mayor. The students remained nonviolent. This event prompted President John F. Kennedy to publicly fully support racial equality, and led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

See also


  • Clayborne Carson, ed., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., (New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc., 1998)
  • M. S. Handler, "Malcolm X Terms Dr. King’s Tactics Futile," New York Times, May 11, 1963
  • Request download ticket at bottom of page Rev. James Bevel speaks about Dr. King attending first children rally in Birmingham, AL. From the Helen L. Bevel Archives.
Folk music

Further reading