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Birmingham Rising

Birmingham, Alabama, at the middle of the 20th century, was among the most segregated cities in the country. It was also a primary battlefield in the American Civil Rights struggle. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned perhaps his most famous correspondence, while sitting in a Birmingham jail for civil disobedience:

"I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Graeco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid."

Scott Johnson, of Power Line, writing in The Weekly Standard, asserts that Dr. Condoleezza Rice's confirmation as U.S. Secretary of State "closed a loop, even if no one seemed to notice." As Johnson points out, Dr. Rice was 8-years-old at the time Dr. King wrote the Letter from a Birmingham Jail.


Condoleezza Rice faced adversity, growing up in a place of great intimidation, where everyone and everything was stacked against her, just because she happened to be born black.

Johnson writes,

"On September 15, 1963, Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was holding its annual Youth Day when a bomb exploded in the basement and killed four girls who had slipped out of Bible class early to lead the adult services later that morning. Among the four dead was Denise McNair. Had she lived, Denise McNair would be 53 today."

Denise McNair was a friend of Dr. Rice. Of the bombing, Rice noted recently:

"The crime was calculated, not random. It was meant to suck the hope out of young lives, bury their aspirations, and ensure that old fears would be propelled forward into the next generation.

....those fears were not propelled forward. Those terrorists failed."

Imagine little Condi Rice, not a decade old, being exposed to that kind of evil, that kind of hatred, that kind of horror. Dr. Rice's personal story is inspirational enough, but what she represents is even more profound. Dr. Rice is a symbol of how far America has come; she is the embodiment of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream that one day little girls like Condi Rice would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.


"The bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church had been the handiwork of former members of the Ku Klux Klan--brothers under the hood to former Ku Klux Klan Grand Kleagle and current Democratic United States Senator Robert Byrd. Byrd of course opposed Rice's confirmation as Secretary of State last week. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Byrd and 11 other Democratic senators in opposing Rice's confirmation was Democratic senator Mark Dayton who is, oddly enough, the occupant of Hubert Humphrey's seat in the Senate. History takes strange turns and politics makes strange bedfellows."


But what to make of Byrd's opposition to Rice? Was it a bit of warm nostalgia for the Senator? Did it ignite latent racist feelings in his heart, the comforting feelings of his youth? Perhaps the thought of a black woman from Birmingham--- a Republican, no less! ---rising to the top, stirred up confusing passions. Perhaps Byrd's opposition to Dr. Rice, a powerful and independent woman who has rejected the notion that African-Americans must be obedient Democrats, was a kind of instinctive plantation-owner reflex.

Perhaps, feeling spurned by a small-but-growing number of upwardly-mobile black individuals like Dr. Rice, observing the loss of control over their political monopoly on minorities, anticipating the gradual-but-impending destruction of their national electoral coalition, Democrats voting against confirming Dr. Rice were merely demonstrating their overall frustration. Afterall, Dr. Rice ought to share their ideology; she ought to be a Democrat, she ought to belong to them, so they think.


Or perhaps opposition to Dr. Rice by a former KKK member is just, yet again, symbolic of how America loves to forgive (and sometimes forget). Perhaps Senator Byrd and his fellow Democrats truly judged Dr. Rice for the content of her character, not seeing her as an African-American woman, but rather, just as an individual.

If this is the case, it still does not let Democrats off the hook. Dr. Rice's professional credentials are impeccable; her character is above reproach; her values and her worldview are inspirational. For those who voted against her, it calls into question their judgment; their very character must be of dubious quality. Opposition to Dr. Rice is yet another Profile in Disgrace for Democrats in recent years.

Johnson writes:

"In ascending to the first among cabinet offices Rice becomes the first cabinet officer in the line of presidential succession. Rice's ascent represents fulfillment of a 'promise' that Martin Luther King offered in the form of his 'dream' in the summer of 1963. The promise traced its roots back to the Emancipation Proclamation and, Lincoln and King both insisted, to the Declaration of Independence. In 1864 Lincoln wrote in response to prominent Democrats who urged him to rescind the Emancipation Proclamation: 'The promise, being made, must be kept.' The fulfillment of the promise represented by Rice's ascent is one in which all Americans can rightfully take pride."

Dr. Condoleezza Rice, rising to greatness, breaking through the oppressive bigotry of her youth, has become the redemption of Birmingham, indeed, the fulfillment of America.

Posted by Will Franklin · 31 January 2005 12:15 PM


Condi Rice is the most intelligent, gracious lady.
I would vote for her for president over anyone, anyday. I am thankful our country has someone like her serving our country.

Posted by: Linda Franklin at March 11, 2005 11:34 AM

It is sad and tragic that this site would provide

such false information. Denise Mcnair was not a

friend nor an acquaintence of Condoleeza Rice.

Condoleeza Rice was opposed by many Democratic

Senators for being unqualified, which she proved

in her distortion of the facts in regards to

Iraq and Weapons of Mass destruction...

Condoleeza Rice is someone who grew up with a

Steinway Piano in her home as black child in the

racist South. Condoleeza Rice barely has a text

book knowledge of what it is to be an oppressed

African American in the South, or what it is to

be a descendant of a Slave.

For Condoleeza Rice to have a Steinway Piano

in her home in that day and age in the deep

South. Is NOT an accurate reflection of the

poverty that struck all African Americans in the

deep South in that day and age.

It is a disgrace that this site has politicized

the heinous murders of four little girls in

1963, by displaying a picture of The Honorable

Robert C. Byrd. As Senator Byrd in no way

shape or fashion had anything whatsoever to do

with the murders of those precious four little

girls of The Sixteenth Baptist Church in 1963.

Dr. Lori Bouvier Kennedy, Esquire, MD., Ph.D.

Posted by: Dr. Lori Bouvier Kennedy, Esquire, MD., Ph.D. at March 27, 2005 12:49 AM