Kennedy Refuses to Support Civil Rights – Demand Federal Intervention in Alabama – May 13, 1963

The Illustrated News was a weekly newsletter put out by my family and some of their friends in Detroit from 1961 to 1964. This issue dealt with the violence in Birmingham, Alabama during 1963 when the violence continued, uninterrupted.  I was a sophomore at Northwestern High School in the spring of 1963.  This is my offering after watching Episode 5 of Many Rivers to Cross. For links to other bloggers writing their response to this series, as well as the other posts I’ve written for earlier episodes, click this link – Many Rivers To Cross – ResponsesTo enlarge the pages for easier reading, please click on them.

To read some of my memories of 1963 and see a collage of events, click Remembering 1963.  An article John Kennedy and Civil Rights talks about what his record in civil rights.


15 thoughts on “Kennedy Refuses to Support Civil Rights – Demand Federal Intervention in Alabama – May 13, 1963

  1. I have to think had I been living and able, I would’ve been a member of your Father’s Church, an adopted cousin joining the family for Sunday dinner and/or a willing volunteer supporting the family’s work in community advocacy! This piece, this paper, blow me away!

    Watching this week’s Many Rivers, I knew it would have special meaning to you, but to read your Father’s [and others who LIVED it] sentiments in respect to the events is unbelievable!

    Makes me aware of how easily with the absence of varying, documented, perspectives, broader society slants and romanticizes historical truths! The Kennedys appear more negligent than reluctant!

    Makes me also aware of what a gift we’re providing future generations of researchers and historians with this work too! NEVER again will our perspectives and insights be absent from the events being remembered.

    Well done Rev. CLEAGE!:)


    1. I was old enough to remember the events mentioned, and notice the events that weren’t mentioned, in this episode. This is a view of Kennedy that nobody seems to remember so I had to share it because I do remember it. I started working on a timeline, that I wish was interactive, that has the events in the USA above and what my family was doing at the time. It is taking so long to do, I decided I better post something in the meantime.

      If you had been in Detroit at that time, and old enough, you would have been there. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

      1. Neither Lincoln or Kennedy were advocates for their slave or Negro problem. Events of the time and being pushed by the people made them agents for change.

  2. I love, in Smoke Rings, “The best time to fight for freedom is the time that you don’t have it”! And it is sobering to read, “WIRE KENNEDY DEMAND FEDERAL INTERVENTION IN ALA.”
    Thank you. This piece an important corrective to the rituals of adulation that are inevitably accompanying the 5oth anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination.

  3. Kris, I’m surprised that you didn’t mention that it was your father’s outrage over the violence at Birmingham, Ala., and what he described as the pathetic response of Detroit’s leading civil-rights organizations, particularly the NAACP, which caused him to become the principle organizer of the historic “Walk To Freedom” down Woodward Avenue six weeks later, on June 23, 1963 — significantly, the 20th anniversary of what “black” Detroiters called the “Battle of Belle Isle” and “white” people and the ignorant news media described as the “1943 Detroit Riot” (as if a vicious attack against African Americans by often armed “white” mobs, aided by the Detroit Police Department, could be properly termed a “riot”!).

    As you well know, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was brought in by his friend the Rev. C. L. Franklin (who not-so-secretly sought to become the Dr. King of the North) to lead the Detroit march, which culminated in a mass rally that overflowed the riverfront Cobo Arena, where Dr. King delivered one of MANY versions of the “I Have a Dream” speech, which would become famous when he gave it at the March on Washington two months later.

    (Some informed observers, including broadcaster Tony Brown, suggest that the Detroit march was as large as, or larger than, the D. C. march.)

    Sadly, it is little remembered, including by historians, that Dr. King Cobo Arena speech’s was preceded by a fiery oration by your father, which brought the crowd of tens of thousands, inside and outside of the arena, to its feet.

    You treated this well in a previous blog post:

    I’m sorry for all of the obscure historical details. Blah, blah, blah, blah!

    1. I ALWAYS appreciate your historic details! Please never stop sharing them. This post appeared in my fb memories this morning and it seemed so relevant to the situation at Standing Rock going on right now.

  4. You’re welcome. Standing Rock? Groan. 2016? More like 1816. And it doesn’t look like Obama’s gonna do anything other than spout confusing words.

  5. Hello Kristin – Interesting times! At the time your Father wrote that very good article (May 1963) President Kennedy was more concerned about the doings or non-doings of the Diem brothers in Saigon, South Vietnam and what Ho Chi Minh was doing in Hanoi, North Vietnam. Also, as we have learned Kennedy was busy with Judith Exner and other ladies on the quiet during that time frame. So much for Camelot! JFK was not a “civil rights advocate”. He wasn’t going to “stick his neck out” on the civil rights issue. He spoke the correct words, but viewed the issue as a “hot political potato”.

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