1963 September 16

“A Time to Speak”: White Birmingham Resident Denounces Racist Bombing


Charles Morgan was a white lawyer in Birmingham, Alabama, who spoke out against racist violence after the savage bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963, which killed four young African American girls. For his courageous stand, he lost all of his clients and was threatened with violence. He and his family fled the city, fearing for their safety.

Morgan went on to become an important civil rights lawyer as head of the ACLU Southern Regional Office in 1964, winning a number of important civil rights cases; and in 1972, he became head of the ACLU Washington, D.C. Legislative Office. In one of his most important cases, Reynolds v. Sims (decided on June 15, 1964), Morgan brought, argued and won the case in which the Supreme Court held that legislative districts should be apportioned on the basis of “one man, one vote.” He also successfully represented before the Supreme Court civil rights leader Julian Bond, who had been denied his seat in the Georgia legislature because of his activism (see the Court decision in Bond v. Floyd on December 5, 1966). And in Whitus v. Georgia (January 23, 1967), Morgan successfully challenged the racially discriminatory Georgia system of selecting jurors.

Morgan on responsibility for the bombing: “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.’ Every last one of us is condemned for that crime and the bombing before it and a decade ago. We all did it.”

Read Morgan’s story: Charles Morgan, A Time to Speak (1964)

Watch the speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KCP8yZgxW4

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