The Birmingham Campaign vs. Mass Incarceration By: Victor Gonzalez

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Background Information

The Birmingham Campaign

The Birmingham Campaign was led by many different African American leader such as Martian Luther King Jr., James Bevel, Fred Shuttlesworth, and many other people. This campaign was held in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963

Protesters being hosed due to their protest (top), Protesters being placed inside a bus (bottom left), and people being taken to prison for peacefully protesting (bottom right)


The Birmingham Campaign was meant to stop the oppression of the African Americans in Birmingham but it was a universal lesson that was meant for the entire United States. They were trying to say that they should have the same rights as all of the white people inside of the United States. Aside from the oppression, it tried to bring attention to the integration efforts of the African Americans in that area.

Campaign Headquarters

This is the church from where people, first students that wanted to be a part of getting their freedom from their oppression, came out to start the march that lasted days in Birmingham, Alabama. The Church is located on 1530 6th Ave N and is known as the 16th Street Baptist Church

The Birmingham Letter

Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the main leaders and coordinators of this campaign. He was placed in jail and that's where he sent his famous letter, later named the Birmingham Letter, to everyone. It states that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws. It also states that people should take direct action rather than waiting potentially forever for justice to come through the courts.

Obstacles and Outcome

Problems Faced

African American protesters had to face the possibility of death if they were to protest. Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to get as many adults as he could to march in the streets of Birmingham but everyone was reluctant to do it. Once the students had heard about what he was doing, many of them decided to join and risk their life for their future and their education. After the students were being harassed, put in jail, threatened, and hosed down, the adults started to join slowly because they had been inspired by the students and they also started to protest and get threatened just like the much younger students did.


Historian Glenn Eskew wrote that the campaign "led to an awakening to the evils of segregation and a need for reforms in the region." People around the entire country saw what was happening in the South and realized that it was not in any way a good way of handling anything. The fact that this got on the new meant that the president saw it and it led many American to persuade President John F. Kennedy to do something about the riots and the racism and discrimination that is happening in the South.

Modern Mass Incarceration

Comparison of incarceration rates; Red lines are states in the United States while blue lines are rates in countries with the US being the leader in incarcerations in the world

Recently, the United States have started to arrest many people. It now seems to have gotten out of control due to the fact that we are now the number one leaders in the world for incarceration rates with the of Louisiana having larger incarceration rates than any other state or country in the world. People now seem to be arrested for something so insignificant and the jails and prisons are filling up. In the Birmingham Campaign, when people first started to march on the streets, the police officers started to arrest them for absolutely no reason. Once it got to the point where there were too many people out marching in the streets, they had school buses take protesters to the prisons which is also a form of mass incarceration just like we have now. It had gotten to a point where their jails got full and if we continue to do this today, we will run out of room or we will need to build more prisons and jails.


Birmingham campaign. (2017, March 27). Retrieved April 27, 2017, from

United States incarceration rate. (2017, April 12). Retrieved April 27, 2017, from

List of U.S. states by incarceration and correctional supervision rate. (2017, February 22). Retrieved April 27, 2017, from

States of Incarceration: The Global Context. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2017, from

Mass Incarceration in the USA. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2017, from

The Birmingham Campaign. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2017, from

Letter from Birmingham Jail. (2017, April 20). Retrieved April 27, 2017, from

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