But for Birmingham: The Local and National Movements in the Civil Rights Struggle / Edition 1

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Birmingham served as the stage for some of the most dramatic and important moments in the history of the civil rights struggle. In this vivid narrative account, Glenn Eskew traces the evolution of nonviolent protest in the city, focusing particularly on the sometimes problematic intersection of the local and national movements.

Eskew describes the changing face of Birmingham's civil rights campaign, from the politics of accommodation practiced by the city's black bourgeoisie in the 1950s to local pastor Fred L. Shuttlesworth's groundbreaking use of nonviolent direct action to challenge segregation during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

In 1963, the national movement, in the person of Martin Luther King Jr., turned to Birmingham. The national uproar that followed on Police Commissioner Bull Connor's use of dogs and fire hoses against the demonstrators provided the impetus behind passage of the watershed Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Paradoxically, though, the larger victory won in the streets of Birmingham did little for many of the city's black citizens, argues Eskew. The cancellation of protest marches before any clear-cut gains had been made left Shuttlesworth feeling betrayed even as King claimed a personal victory. While African Americans were admitted to the leadership of the city, the way power was exercised—and for whom—remained fundamentally unchanged.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A sophisticated and engaging piece of scholarship, But for Birmingham ranks alongside the best of a new wave of histories.

American Studies

An excellent (and prize-winning) book analyzing the civil rights struggle in Birmingham during the 1950s and 1960s.

American Historical Review

[A] trenchant account of the Birmingham civil rights movement.

Journal of American History

A balanced and compelling study.

Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

[A] valuable addition to the growing scholarship on the evolution of African American social protest in modern America.

North Carolina Historical Review

Russell Baker
Glenn T. Eskew's "But for Birmingham" differs about Birmingham. His is a valuable academic study of Birmingham society, economics, and politics, and...provides a more complex view of the city in 1963 than we are accustomed to. -- Russell Baker, The New York Review of Books
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807846674
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 12/15/1997
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 456
  • Sales rank: 307,905
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Glenn T. Eskew is associate professor of history at Georgia State University.

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Table of Contents


Introduction: Stalemate
Chapter 1 The National Movement
Chapter 2 Bombingham
Chapter 3 Bull's Birmingham
Chapter 4 The Local Movement
Chapter 5 Businessman's Reform
Chapter 6 Momentum
Chapter 7 Another Albany?
Chapter 8 The Children's Crusade
Chapter 9 But for Birmingham
Epilogue: Ambiguous Resolution

Birmingham skyline, ca. 1952
Map of North Smithfield
Bomb-blasted house of Bishop S. L. Green
Map of predominantly black neighborhoods
Detective Henry Darnell confronts Bull Connor
Sidney W. Smyer Sr., a "Big Mule"
Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth at the funeral of the four girls killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
Dynamite-damaged Bethel Baptist Church
Freedom Ride riot at Birmingham Trailways station
Freedom Riders' bus burns outside Anniston, Alabama
Map of downtown Birmingham
Members of the white elite present a petition to Mayor Art Hanes
Map of metropolitan Birmingham
Bull Connor addresses an audience in an effort to convince voters to retain the city commission form of government
Rev. Calvin Woods leads sit-in at Woolworth's lunch counter on the opening day of the Birmingham campaign
Crowds gather outside St. James Baptist Church before the arrival of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
A police dog lunges at a black man as police break up bystanders following a protest march
Al Hibbler after participating in a sit-in at Loveman's
Revs. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, Ralph David Abernathy, and Martin Luther King Jr. march in violation of a state court order
Birmingham Fire Department turns its hoses on nonviolent protesters of the children's crusade
Black bystanders taunt Birmingham policemen in Kelly Ingram Park
King, Shuttlesworth, and Abernathy announce the negotiated truce that ended the Birmingham campaign
Bull Connor's white tank patrols Seventeenth Street during the first urban riot of the 1960s
White students protest the court-ordered integration of Phillips High School
State troopers surround the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church after a bomb damaged the structure and killed four girls inside
African Americans line up in the Jefferson County Courthouse to register to vote in 1966

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2002

    Important study in Civil Rights Movement

    But for Birmingham is a compelling look the the events in Birminham in 1963 and the events leading up the demonstrations. Dr. Eskew strips away the nostalgia and takes a 'nuts and bolts' approach to his study. The work portrays the dynamics of northern indusrtial interests, the 'colored elite', the working classes of both races, the civil rights workers on the grassroots level and the national civil rights leaders. The cooperation and resistance among the various groups is interesting and will come as a surprise to most readers. The book also deals with the violent resistence by Bull Connor and the Klan, and the apparent coordination in their efforts. This study is well researched, well documented and is a must read for a student of the civil rights movement or anyone else interested in the events in Birmingham, Alabama.

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