In May 1963 a white police officer in Birmingham, Alabama, tried to scare some black children as they went to protest against segregation. As fellow policemen turned hoses and dogs on black youngsters nearby, the kids made it plain they knew what they were doing and continued marching towards the demonstrations. A reporter asked one of them her age. “Six,” she said, as she climbed into the paddy wagon.
Events in Birmingham proved a crucial turning point in the civil rights era. Before protests started, only 4% of Americans regarded the struggle for racial equality as the country’s most pressing issue; after Birmingham, it was more than half.