50 years after Birmingham bombing, U.S. mayors vow renewed racism fight

Thu Sep 12, 2013 6:29pm EDT
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By Verna Gates

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - From lunch counters to public buses, the battle over racism in the United States during the 1950s and 60s took place in cities, and five decades later mayors of some of the country's largest urban areas have vowed to carry on the fight for civil rights.

Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama on Thursday where the 50th anniversary of the bombing of a black church will be remembered this week, civic leaders called for an end to modern discrimination in areas like jobs, housing and transportation.

"Cities are the place where hope hits the street, and where the hard work of government happens," said Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans, during a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting taking place this week.

Landrieu was among 50 mayors nationwide who on Thursday joined a newly created U.S. Coalition Against Racism and Discrimination by signing a pledge to end racism in their own cities.

The 10-point plan calls on mayors to use their bully pulpits to push for diversity and equality while enacting policies that support programs such as post-release employment for prisoners, affordable daycare, fair housing, community events and education celebrating diversity.

The action comes as Birmingham remembers the 50th anniversary this week of the racial bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four girls and galvanized the civil rights movement.

On Friday, as part of its commemoration activities, the conference will host former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was an 8-year-old girl in Birmingham at the time and lost her friend, 11-year-old Denise McNair, in the explosion.

The official ceremonies feature U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and will happen on Sunday, September 15, in Birmingham.   Continued...