Memphis – National Civil Rights Museum (Martin Luther King’s Cell)

This is a recreation of the prison cell that Martin Luther King was placed in following his arrest for taking in part in peaceful civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham in April 1963. Whilst in his cell, he wrote what became known as the ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ which called for peaceful protest against the injustices of discrimination.

Much of the problem in Birmingham was Bull Connor, the city representative whose clumsy decisions accidentally brought the protests to international attention. Members of the civil rights movement knew that Connor and some other city representatives were unlikely to make coherent decisions, hence why they were keen to protest in the city, which was also heavily segregated.

Martin Luther King controversially encouraged youngsters to get involved with the campaign, similar to that with the current situation with Greta Thunberg and the environmental campaign. Connor however decided to arrest the thousand children on the march and ordered water hoses and dogs to be set on them. Martin Luther King said that evening, “Don’t worry about your children who are in jail. The eyes of the world are on Birmingham. We’re going on in spite of dogs and fire hoses. We’ve gone too far to turn back.”

President John F. Kennedy at this stage intervened as the crisis worsened and in May 1963 segregation started to end in Birmingham, or at least start to end officially. On 11 June 1963, the President made an announcement from the White House that there would be progress made on civil rights, which led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.