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Justice Department Hails Birmingham Settlement

May 10, 1963 - Justice Department officials hailed the settlement of the Birmingham racial dispute as “a tremendous step forward for Birmingham, for Alabama, and for the South generally.” Burke Marshall (left), Assistant Attorney General, made that comment at a news conference after returning from a negotiator’s role in Birmingham. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy was at his side. Mr. Kennedy said the great lesson of the Birmingham crisis was the importance of whites and Negroes sitting down together and talking — “the importance of getting a dialogue.” “The alternative to discussion is going to be great violence,” Mr. Kennedy said, “and turning matters over to extremists on both sides.” He said the white extremists were those who “think Negroes should not wear a tie and can’t discuss Negroes without using a swear word,” and Negro extremists are those who “think that white people have mistreated the Negroes for such a long period of time that violence should be used against them.” “All of us have a hell of a lesson to learn,” the Attorney General continued. “We’ve got to have greater exchanges and meetings, so that a Southern governor can talk to a Burke Marshall and not lose votes for himself, and a white Democratic leader can say something nice about a Southern Senator and not feel it is going to lose him the next election. That is what is missing at the present time in the United States.”


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