Saturday 21 November 2015

Charles Morgan Jr.'s Speech That Shocked Birmingham

"A mad, remorseful community asks:  'Who did it?  Who threw that bomb?  Was it a Negro or a white?'  The answer should be:  We all did." (Charles Morgan Jr.)

On September 15, 1963, in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement, a bomb went off at a Birmingham church, killing four young girls attending Sunday School.  The city was in shock.  Who would perform such a heinous crime?  It had only been a couple of weeks since Martin Luther King Jr.'s successful March on Washington.  It seemed like the closer blacks came to achieving their rights, the more racist whites attacked them.  

The day following the bombing, as the police searched the rubble of the church, a young white lawyer named Charles Morgan Jr. stood up before a group of businessmen at the Young Men's Business Club and expressed his outrage at the crime which had taken place.

"Four little girls were killed in Birmingham yesterday.  A mad, remorseful, worried community asks:  'Who did it?  Who threw that bomb?  Was it a Negro or a white?'  The answer should be:  We all did it."

Charles Morgan Jr. was tired of people "getting away with murder".  He was tired of seeing the South, which he deeply loved, be taken over by hatemongers.  He was tired of the "silent acquiescence of good people who saw wrong but didn't try to right it."  

"The 'who' is every individual who talks about the 'niggers' and spreads the seeds of his hate to his neighbour and his son...The who is every governor who ever shouted for lawlessness and became a law violator.  It is every Senator and representative who in the halls of Congress stands and with mock humility tells everybody that things back home aren't really like they are.  It is courts that move every so slowly and newspapers that timorously defend the law."

Charles Morgan Jr. attended the University of Alabama where he studied law.  He was at the centre of the storm living in Alabama in the 1950's and 1960's.  He was active in state politics.

"Yesterday, when Birmingham , which prides itself of the number of churches, was attending worship services, a bomb went off and an all white police force moved into action, a police force which has been praised by city officials at least once a day for a month or so.  A police force which has solved no bombings.  A police force which many Negroes feel is perpetuating the very evils we decry."

Charles Morgan Jr. suffered for his remarks.  The phone calls started immediately, threatening his wife and son.  One caller described every place his family had been in the space of a day.  The threats became so real that Charles was forced to flee the state.  Here are his final remarks:

"Those four little Negro girls were human beings.  They had lived their fourteen years in a leaderless city:  a city where no one accepts responsibility, where everybody wants to blame someone else."

Note:  For more information about the Birmingham Church Bombing, visit

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