During the first week of May 1963, Birmingham police and firemen attacked civil rights demonstrators, many of whom were children, in the streets bordering this park. The violence raised a nationwide public outcry, hastening integration in America's most segregated city.
Birmingham, site of the first mass beatings of freedom riders, was selected by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) for a massive protest campaign. Kelly Ingram Park (historically known as West Park), was an assembly point for participants in the SCLC's Project "C," (for Confrontation)--sit-ins, boycotts, marches, and jailings designed to end segregation in Birmingham. Under the on site direction of SCLC President Martin Luther King, Jr., and local SCLC affiliate Fred Shuttlesworth, department stores were targeted for boycotts and protest marches organized. Dr. King was arrested and held in solitary confinement for three days, during which he wrote, smuggled out of jail, and had printed his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," a profoundly moving justification for the moral necessity of non-violent resistance to unjust laws.