Sunday, March 6, 1960 dawned clear and cold in Montgomery, Alabama. It was like any other quiet Sunday morning, yet a feeling of unrest pierced the deceptive calm. Two days before, the Negro ministers of the city had scheduled a mass prayer meeting on the State Capitol grounds for 1:30 Sunday afternoon. The meeting was called to protest the expulsion of nine Alabama State College students who participated in a “sit-down” demonstration at the Montgomery County Court House on February 26. The Capitol grounds are state property, and the Negroes, of course, were well within their rights to stage an orderly meeting there. Moreover, there is nothing in the State Constitution or in city or county statutes to prevent this.
Yet the city police commissioner issued a statement on Saturday afternoon designed to intimidate the Negro community and to thwart the proposed meeting. “In view of the situation that exists in Montgomery,” he warned, “if the Negroes persist in flaunting their arrogance and defiance at the Capitol Sunday the police will have no alternative but to take whatever action might be necessary to disperse them.”
On Sunday morning, then, the city of Montgomery was anxiously ...
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