A letter to President John F. Kennedy from Tom Oberdorfer, Birmingham, Alabama, 1963.

This letter asks the president about protection for African Americans in the South after the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.


Dear Mr. President,
What I’m going to say might not mean much to you but it means a lot to me.

I heard on the news that you aren’t sending troops to Birmingham. Well I think you should for this reason. Because the negroes have gone through a lot of rough treatment not only in Birmingham but in Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, ect. [sic] This has been going on since the Civil War (they got some rights then but not many). Many of them have been killed and wounded for the same reason (their rights).

Now they have to be armed to love! But there [sic] not going to take there [sic] weapons to church, so there’s a pretty good chance that there will be another bombing this Sunday. By this time it might [be] too late. They might kill every white in sight (negroes). At least send secret service down there for church. I think that that should make sense.

If you don’t send troops send me a letter telling why. You’ll here [sic] from me again.

Tom Oberdorfer