Yesterday in worship we showed the 40 minute DVD "The Children's March" by The Southern Poverty Law Center. It tells the story of Birmingham, Alabama protest in 1963 that literally broke the back of southern segregation. King went to jail in Birmingham and was disappointed that he got so little support from blacks in the city. He brought in James Bevel to organize and Bevel had the same problem; the oppression was so severe the adults were afraid to act. But in what must have been an incredibly moving scene - it certainly was on the DVD - when Bevel (or was it King?) called for volunteers at the packed 16th Street Baptist Church, which was later bombed, it was the children who stood up and volunteered to fill the jails. And for a week that is just what they did; thousands of children marched and were arrested and jailed. The newspaper and television reports of the time showing Bull Connor using fire hoses and dogs on children shocked the nation and forced President Kennedy to intervene. Hearing them, as adults, tell their story, as well as showing footage from the march, was inspiring.
We honor Dr. King today as a great leader who challenged and inspired the nation to redress a great wrong. But it is well to remember that it was children who were among the first to get what he was all about; they led the way in Birmingham.