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Integrated Easter Service Led by Billy Graham in Birmingham

Mar. 29, 1964 - Whites and Negroes in Birmingham, Ala., long estranged by racial discord, found common ground today in an Easter service held in a football stadium. More than 35,000 of both races sat shoulder to shoulder in Legion Field, a municipally owned facility, and heard the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham call for a spiritual awakening throughout America that would end hate and prejudice.

“What a moment and what an hour in Birmingham!” the evangelist said as he surveyed the integrated audience. “It is good to stand together for Christ.”

The audience and the choir of 3,000 appeared to be composed equally of whites and Negroes. After the service, at invitation of Dr. Graham, several thousand poured from the stands to dedicate their lives in service to the church.

Gathered before the pulpit for the ceremony, they filled half the football field. Local authorities in said it was the largest thoroughly integrated audience ever assembled in Alabama. Leaders of both races said it was a significant step forward in racial relations in Birmingham, which has a history of rigid segregation in religious and secular public gatherings.

The Rev. J.L. Ware, a Negro minister who delivered the benediction, said after the service that today could be the beginning of the end of racial hatred and violence that has marked this industrial city in recent years.

A reminder of Birmingham’s stormy history was visible as a backdrop even as Dr. Graham spoke. Legion Field is at the foot of “Dynamite Hill,” a Negro residential section which has been the target of numerous terrorist bombings.

In his sermon today, Dr. Graham said: “We are now beginning to realize that something is desperately wrong with human nature. The most burning question of our times is the problem of man. What causes hate, prejudice, lust, immorality, greed, deceit, fraud, and war that we read about each day? What causes schoolchildren to attack schoolteachers in New York schools? What causes a man like Eichmann to order the death of millions? What causes Communist terrorists to kill innocent people in scores of countries? What causes bombs to be thrown in the South against innocent people? What causes men to sell dope to high school students and peddle their pornographic literature for men to feed their lust on? What diabolical force twisted the mind of Lee Oswald that caused him to shoot our President down in cold blood? What causes such intense hate and bitterness that have divided the people on Cyprus into armed camps? The Bible tells us, but we don’t listen.”


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