The Civil Rights Children’s Crusade

April 20, 1963. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. walks out of Alabama’s Birmingham Jail after being held for a week for peacefully protesting. He spent most of that time writing a letter that passionately defends the civil rights movements’s nonviolent tactics. But despite King’s passion, the movement’s progress has stalled. King needs a major victory in Birmingham, but he’s running out of people willing to risk their livelihoods and safety for this cause. So a new tactic starts taking shape: recruiting young people to protest. After all, kids have the least to lose and the most to gain from a more equal future. But King says the risk is too high. So what changes his mind about putting kids on the front lines? And how did the Children’s March shift Americans’ support of civil rights? 

Special thanks to our guests: Children’s Crusade participants Jessie Shepherd, Janice Wesley Kelsey, and Charles Avery. And Ahmad Ward, former head of education at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and current Executive Director at Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park.

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