Interview with Rev. Joseph Ellwanger
QUESTION 33
INTERVIEWER:

OK. I'M GOING TO ASK YOU ABOUT THE LETTER FROM THE BIRMINGHAM JAILS WRITTEN IN RESPONSE TO AN AD BY A NUMBER OF CLERGY IN TOWN CRITICAL OF THE DEMONSTRATIONS. WHAT WAS THE SENSE AFTER HE WROTE HIS LETTER BACK ANSWERING THEM? WHAT WAS THE COMMUNITY SENSE THAT YOU CAN REMEMBER? UM, THE RESPONSE TO THAT…

Rev. Joseph Ellwanger:

Unfortunately King's letter from the Birmingham jail did not get nearly the press in the local uh, papers that the ad did of course in uh, the the issue before. But uh, there was no question that what uh, most of the people, from what I can recall, the leaders' uh, response to King's letter was simply, uh, well, we beg to disagree with you. You're just uh, defending your position because you can't do otherwise. Uh, but it's interesting because what uh seemed to turn the corner for movement there and turned it so quickly was the fact that uh the demonstrations uh mounted so quickly in size, there were literally hundreds of people, and and kids especially, children and youth going through the downtown streets, and the business community then became fearful of what would happen to their businesses and they called uh the religious leaders and the movement leaders together and said let's talk and uh that's what really made the difference.