Please click here to hear an audio taping of the Mass Meeting held immediately after the Birmingham Police began using dogs and firehoses to quell the protests. Dr. Martin Luther King is the main speaker: Audio of Mass Meeting with MLK
Mass meetings were at the crux of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement. This is where participants learned about the objectives of the Movement, their rights, the principles of non-violence, and logistical matters related to the protests. Held in churches, the meetings were also of a spiritual nature with lots of singing. To gain a better sense of the meetings, this week we share the memories of the youths who participated in the mass meetings.
Bernard Johnson: Western Olin High
As a young person, I thought that the speeches were too long and I had more interest in the young ladies….We took it for granted if Rev. King or someone of that stature was at one of the meetings and made a speech….I would always leave with a certain level of inspiration.
Emily Thomas Ellis: Parker High School
[The mass meetings were] spiritual and rewarding….They sang freedom songs.
Miriam McClendon: Sophomore at Wenonah High School
A lot of singing and rally. They discussed the critical issues, the same issues that were being discussed in the larger mass meetings with the adults, but they tailored it to fit the temperament of the student.
John Henry Lee: Freshman Immaculata High School
[A mass meeting] was like church. It was a lot of emotion, but you used the Bible to sort of explain what was happening or you use that type of emotion to translate it into the political thing to advance the human rights effort.
Deborah Hill: Student
I had the opportunity of meeting and seeing Dr. Martin Luther King….At the meeting he explained to the young people, the part that we would play in the movement. I remember the discussions being centered on non-violence. The non-violence was something that was strongly emphasized and strongly stressed. And you know when you’re young, you have so much energy and that energy has to be redirected. We didn’t think that we could all be as non-violent as Dr. King had wanted us to be but this was something that was taught and told to us and given reasons as to why if we were going to be effective why the non-violent way would be the most effective way to be.
Eloise Staples: Student Freshman Parker High School
The moment was so strong and intense and the people were so…and I want to say fierce from a standpoint of anger but they were so strong…it was contagious. Even if you went with the intent of fooling around, you listened…it was the euphoria I guess. …. [I]t made us stop and think. We weren’t into reading newspapers and watching the news and that kind of thing but it made you wonder, what’s really going on?
Robert Simpson: Junior Ullman High School
It was like a fire….[like] that song… ‘Ain’t going to let nobody turn me around.’ All those things that we sang about, we believed…..Dr. King did stress the non-violent part. He explained…about Ghandi.
Floretta Scruggs Tyson: Sophomore in Ullman High School
[Mass meetings] were like going to church.