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
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.