Students Moving for Change: The Birmingham Children's Crusade
We Shall Overcome. #NeverAgain. Over the years images of social protest have been prevalent. At the forefront of many of these protests have been students rallying their peers and adults to create change in the United States. This year has also seen students rising up to take action. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14th left 17 dead and initiated the student-led March for Our Lives
movement against gun violence and in support of gun control legislation.
Fifty-five years ago this week saw another group of students taking the lead on the major issue of the day—racism. On May 2, 1963, over 4,000 African American school children from elementary to high school in Birmingham, Alabama left their classrooms to protest the segregation and racial discrimination their city was facing.
Alabama in 1963 was the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, but support for demonstration was diminishing. In an effort to reignite the campaign, James Bevel
with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) proposed recruiting students to protest. He argued that students had little to lose, whereas their parents and other adults faced the prospect of losing their jobs if they participated. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was at first apprehensive about putting children on the front lines, but he eventually agreed.
On “D-Day” as it was called, students in groups of 50 marched from the 16th
Street Baptist Church chanting and singing songs of freedom. Almost 1,000 students of all ages were arrested and jailed that day. Another thousand youth joined the demonstrations the following day. Their nonviolent protest was met with the violent pressure of water from fire hoses and attacking police dogs on the order of Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor. Despite being knocked down, the students stood their ground for five days. Nearly 3,000 in total were arrested in Birmingham. The Birmingham Children’s Crusade as it became known left a legacy of student leadership and perseverance. The efforts and bravery of these students helped engender public support in the civil rights fight.
Many examples of student activism
can be found in American and world history. Search eLibrary to find information on how student activism in the past informs student activism today. Below are Research Topics on a few events/movements that may be helpful to your student leaders.
Vietnam War Protests
Tiananmen Square Protests
Black Lives Matter
Teachers: What causes are your students advocating? How are they stepping up in and out of the classroom? Tweet us at #ProQuest.