There were no midgets in this group of clergy–alphabetically, they were Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King Jr, and Fred Shuttlesworth. I learned about this incident reading the brilliant book Carry Me Home by Diane McWhorter. Here’s the cover.
The brains of the group, Shuttlesworth of Birmingham, had gone to Georgia to propose a protest, that was to become one of the most famous in world history, which he called Project C. It involved occupying the lunch counters in Birmingham, using his trademark tactic of “direct action.” Neither of the other two had ever participated in a direct action protest. Unfortunately, Shuttlesworth missed his plane back to Alabama.
I’ll quote McWhorter from this point:
Chafing to catch his flight back to Birmingham, Shuttlesworth asked King and Abernathy to drive him to Savannah. Arriving at the airport just as the plane for Birmingham was taking off, King said with humorous sympathy, “Ralph, I believe Fred has missed his plane.” Inside the terminal, Shuttlesworth said, “Gentlemen, I’m powerful hungry,” and led them into the all-white lunch room, instructing them, “Leave some stools between us. Some white folks may want to sit down.” To the waitress who was sullenly ignoring the leaders of the civil rights movement, Shuttlesworth called, “Little lady, if you don’t want your airport to make the history books, you better serve me.” But the only record for posterity was the rolls of surveillance film that the FBI shot of the SCLC member’s coming and goings at the airport, assuming the revolutionary plot being hatched at Dorchester to be Marxist-Leninist.Carry Me Home
J. Edgar Hoover was something like the Putin of American history–that is, when he wasn’t playing dress up with his boyfriend. The line between the Klan, the FBI, and the police was practically invisible in Birmingham in the early 60’s, which was often compared to Berlin in the late 1930’s. All wanted to portray the civil rights movement as being communists, who wanted to take away white people’s places at the lunch counter. Thus few of the fifty bombings that happened there were ever solved, the last notable one claiming the life of Federal Judge Robert Vance. His daughter in law Joyce is now a news analyst for MSNBC.
I have to admire all the kids in those two pictures, but my favorite is the girl wearing the toboggan. She looks like she is mad enough to eat Putin’s lunch. I hope she does.