Today at work, a wise colleague told me that the Florida children demonstrating for gun control, while impressive, “will lose.” He explained, “They don’t know what they’re up against.” I predict just the opposite. They will win. And I have history backing up my position.
Great social movements, with the odds stacked against them have, and will continue to be won, by children. Adults may be too weary, or scared, or jaded to persevere. But when kids are fired up with a great cause, they can be unstoppable. Let’s look at a few notable example of how kids have changed the world when their parents thought, “They don’t know what they’re up against.”
The Birmingham Children’s Crusade
In 1963, the Civil Rights movement faced a crucial test in Birmingham, Alabama, and it was losing. Dr. King and his allies couldn’t find enough adults to make the sacrifices necessary to confront an defeat an oppressive system of racial injustice. This was the Jim Crow of the South, set up by Whites after Reconstruction as a permanent caste system designed to maintain White rule.
It was only when the children of Birmingham and the surrounding towns took up the call to “fill the jails,” often without their parents’ permission, that the world took notice and the White power structure was defeated. The Birmingham Children’s Movement resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Nashville and other sit-ins of the 1960s were conducted by students who may not have been as young as the many of the Birmingham students, but were still not old enough to let seemingly overwhelming odds stop them from taking action. They faced violence and jail and kept going until their cities were desegregated.
Child Textile Workers March
On July 7, 1903, hundreds of exploited juvenile textile laborers began a 100 mile march from Philadelphia to Teddy Rosevelt’s home in New York. Their agitation helped to reform child labor laws.
No matter what the immediate result of the new children’s movement for gun sanity, the participants and all of society win when children and young adults wake up and become enthusiastically engaged citizens. The seeds they are planting in our country will bloom for a generation.
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