List of racially-motivated bombings

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This is a list of racially-motivated bombings, events in a long series of terrorist actions aimed at cowing proponents of racial desegregation in Birmingham and surrounding areas.

Numerous explosive devices were placed near African American leaders' homes and meeting places during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Many others targeted black families moving into neighborhoods that had previously been zoned for whites, or individuals of any race alleged to be have supported the cause of integration. Historians have connected the materials and methods used by racially-motivated bombers to earlier outbreaks of labor-related violence and intimidation.

Most of these crimes went "unsolved", due to complacency, or perhaps complicity, on the part of local law enforcement agencies and the FBI. The frequency of such acts led to the use of the derisive nickname "Bombingham" for the city. Locally, the preponderance of bombings focused around Center Street at the boundary of Smithfield and Graymont, where a lawsuit filed by Arthur Shores had prevented the city from enforcing its racial zoning ordinance, led to that area being called "Dynamite Hill".

Author Diane McWhorter documented numerous connections between these bombings and similar campaigns conducted as part of violent conflicts between mine companies and organized labor in the early 20th century. Robert Chambliss was frequently seen in the area, sometimes making overt threats, and was occasionally arrested on suspicion of involvement in bombings. He was not convicted and was generally understood to enjoy the sanction of Public Safety commissioner Bull Connor.

Notable bomb incidents


  • August 18: The first bombing targeted a new home constructed by Samuel Mathews on a vacant lot at 120 11th Court North in North Smithfield. He had purchased the property, which was planned to be rezoned for Black residents, in 1946. After being denied an occupancy permit he retained Arthur Shores to represent him in a suit against the city. U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Mullins ruled in favor of Matthews on July 31, 1947. Afterward Mathews found a skull and crossbones painted on the side of the house. A few days later six sticks of dynamite were thrown through the living room window, destroying the $3,700 house. Mathews reported the crime to police. Detectives claimed that their investigation "failed to reveal sufficient evidence to make an arrest." The event touched off what some termed the "Battle of North Smithfield".



1949 mass meeting poster.png
On August 17 a mass meeting was held on the lawn of the Smithfield Court auditorium to hear witness reports of the bombings and to call for investigation and prosecution of the guilty. The meeting was co-sponsored by the Birmingham Business League, Property Owners Protective Association, Progressive Democratic Association of the NAACP, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the Birmingham Jefferson County Housewives League, the Birmingham Emancipation Association and the Social Workers Council. More than 2,000 people attended the protest, at which resolutions calling for an end to bombings, for increased access to real estate, and in support of attorney Arthur Shores were approved.
  • September: A bomb attributed to the KKK damaged WEDR-AM's broadcast antenna.


Aftermath of the bombing of Mary Means Monk's home
  • April: Joel Boykins' newly-built home and dentist office in Smithfield was bombed. The event prompted the Birmingham Chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women to condemn such crimes and urge the police to investigate and prosecute.
  • April 22: Milton Curry Jr's home was targeted a third time. The larger bomb nearly destroyed the house entirely. Two people inside escaped without injury.
    • July 29: Pamphlets printed by the Alabama Communist Party in which the ongoing "unsolved" bombings were prominently mentioned, were scattered onto the street from a 10th floor window of the Woodward Building by New York resident George Breland.
  • December 21: A brick bungalow belonging to Monroe and Mary Means Monk at 950 Center Street North was bombed. Mrs Monk had won a court judgment nullifying Birmingham's revised segregated zoning laws and had moved into the house on the west side of the street the previous day. The bomb was tossed onto the porch adjoining the room where the Monks were sleeping. Neither the Monks nor their boarder, C. W. Askew, were seriously injured.


  • The rear half of Milton Curry's home at 1100 Center Street North was burned to the ground.




Following a pair of bombings of houses in Fountain Heights, two white men were captured by black residents and beaten. They were arrested when they later sought medical treatment at University Hospital. The investigation led to one additional arrest. One of the three was convicted on a bombing charge and all three pleaded guilty a second charge of "attempting to set off a bomb". They were all given probation rather than imprisonment.("To Keep the Record Straight"-1963)






Bomb damage at the Gaston Motel
Timing device used in the bombing of Arthur Shores' home



Civil Rights Movement (19561965)
Documents Segregation laws · ACMHR Declaration of Principles · Nonviolence pledge · Birmingham Manifesto · A Call For Unity · Appeal for Law and Order · Letter from Birmingham Jail · Birmingham Truce · Civil Rights Act of 1964
Events Freedom Rides · Who Speaks for Birmingham? · Selective Buying Campaign · Birmingham Campaign · Good Friday march · Children's Crusade · Police dogs and firehoses · List of racially-motivated bombings · 1963 church bombing · May 1963 riot
Organizations Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights · Birmingham City Commission · Ku Klux Klan · Miles College · NAACP · Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Activists Fred Shuttlesworth · Martin Luther King Jr · A. D. King · James Bevel · Frank Dukes · Edward Gardner · Lola Hendricks · Colonel Stone Johnson · Autherine Lucy · Vivian Malone · Joseph Lowery · James Orange · Nelson Smith Jr · John Porter · Abraham Woods Jr
Other figures Albert Boutwell · Robert Chambliss · Bull Connor · A. G. Gaston · Art Hanes · Lucius Pitts · Sidney Smyer · J. B. Stoner · "8 white clergymen" · Virgil Ware · "4 little girls"
Places Kelly Ingram Park · A. G. Gaston Motel · Movement churches
Legacy Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail · Birmingham Civil Rights Institute · Birmingham Pledge