From 2013 to 1963: Looking back at a pivotal year

By Wayne Drash CNN | 12/24/2013, 1:33 p.m.

Many historians credit the horror of the 16th Street Bombing with turning the tide in Congress, resulting in the passage of the historic civil rights bill the following year.

Letter from Birmingham Jail

In early 1963, King helped organize a massive protest in Birmingham, one of the most violently segregationist cities in the South. But the protests faltered because activists couldn't summon enough participants and were running out of bail money for those who had been arrested. King decided he needed to do something dramatic -- and provoked his arrest by leading a demonstration on April 12, Good Friday.

In jail, King read an ad placed in a local newspaper by eight moderate white clergymen who called him an outside agitator and lawbreaker and counseled him to wait. King didn't take their advice. Scribbling in the margins of the newspaper or on whatever paper he could find, he unloaded on the clergymen. Writing only from memory, he cited Socrates, St. Augustine, the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber and the theologian Paul Tillich.

He gave his writing to his lawyer, who smuggled it out of jail, had it typed up and copied. It was published by the Quakers as a pamphlet and appeared in the Christian Century, Atlantic Monthly and Saturday Evening Post. King's "Letter From Birmingham Jail" became a chapter in his popular 1964 book, "Why We Can't Wait," and is considered a classic defense of civil disobedience.


It may seem silly to refer to the Beatles as the original boy band, but that's what they were in 1963. The release of the British band's debut album, "Please Please Me," on March 22, 1963, was the start of a cultural revolution that would change the music landscape for decades to come. In a single year, the Beatles went from relative obscurity to playing in front of 73 million Americans on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

That year also witnessed the launch of other musicians who became icons, including the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. The lasting impact of their revolution influenced not just music, but modern art, design and fashion for decades to come.

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