By Robert W. Widell Jr.
Birmingham, Alabama looms huge within the background of the twentieth-century black freedom fight, yet up to now historians have in most cases overlooked the years after 1963. the following, writer Robert Widell explores the evolution of Birmingham black activism into the Nineteen Seventies, delivering a invaluable neighborhood standpoint at the "long" black freedom fight.
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Extra resources for Birmingham and the Long Black Freedom Struggle
Such assertiveness was exactly the type of behavior that any company seeking to circumvent the Civil Rights Act hoped to discourage, but it also should have been fair warning that getting rid of Wrenn would not be very easy. Wrenn’s dismissal stemmed from his suspension following an altercation with a white employee. In a complaint filed with the EEOC, Wrenn alleged that his suspension, rather than a legitimate disciplinary action, had actually been an act of reprisal. Although the EEOC initially dismissed Wrenn’s allegation, in May 1967 the agency invited him to submit additional evidence.
One of the most important things that committee members did was refuse to remain silent. Faced with the understandable frustration produced by the legal delays they encountered, CEJO members recognized that persistent activism was required. Harvey Henley reflected on this point in a conversation in 2004: [T]he longest way to justice to me is to get tied up in these courts. If you don’t have a good active group supporting you, you’re not going anywhere in these courts. 5 Henley recalled: We had to, the judge would sit on our case—Judge Lynne—he sat on our case for a whole year without saying anything.
They remembered that when Brimm met with the black employees, he only did so in the presence of the president, vice president, and other management higher-ups. O. 39 He even cautioned that they could be sent to jail for doing 24 BIRMINGHAM AND LONG BLACK FREEDOM STRUGGLE so. In such an atmosphere, of course, one could not expect much candor. Indeed, Peter Wrenn recalled that “Dr. 43 Within the year, thanks in no small way to the momentum generated by the SCLC’s Birmingham Campaign that previous spring, they were given a powerful new tool to utilize in their effort: the Civil Rights Act of 1964.