Birmingham’s Foot Soldiers for Justice

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A tribute to foot soldiers in the Birmingham movement is on the plaque and in the scene depicted in this sculpture at Kelly Ingram Park.
A tribute to foot soldiers in the Birmingham movement is on the plaque and in the scene depicted in this sculpture at Kelly Ingram Park.

Normally on Crime Capsule, we’re interested in criminals who end up in jail against their will. The kind who never planned to get caught, who bungled the job, or who got outfoxed by a wily lawman.

This week, we’re looking at a different kind of criminal.

As May and June are the anniversary months of the 1960s Freedom Riders, pouring into the South from across the country, we wanted to honor those men and women (and children at the time) who were unjustly imprisoned, who voluntarily entered detention centers, and those who pursued civil disobedience in search of a greater justice. We’ve already explored some of this history in Mississippi; thanks to journalist and historian Nick Patterson, we’re now able to meet some of the “ground troops” of the Birmingham civil rights movement, those who fought bravely and sacrificed dearly to bring equal rights to their community—and yet, in the shadow of more prominent figures of the era, whose stories might have been lost.

In his book Birmingham Foot Soldiers: Voices from the Civil Rights Movement, Patterson introduces us to over a dozen key activists, organizers, and citizens from the Magic City, telling their stories in riveting detail—some of which have never before been told in print. Here at Crime Capsule, we’re proud to offer a different kind of jailhouse lineup, a photo gallery of those whose time in lockup, protesting segregation and a racist regime, succeeded in changing not just a city but a nation.

Read the full story at our sister site dedicated to True Crime, Crime Capsule.

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