A single explosion outside Colorado Springs’ NAACP office has some noting the overtones of Jim Crow Era intimidation tactics. What looks to be a homemade bomb was set against the exterior wall of the building that housed the organization’s office, along with a red gas tank which did not ignite after the explosion. No one was injured in the blast and it is under investigation by the FBI, who have not confirmed that this was an attack targeted at the civil rights group. Nevertheless, the similarities between this event and bombings that occurred during the civil rights effort of the 1960s are inescapable to students of history.
The facts about the suspected bombing are few and the FBI and the NAACP chapter president are waiting for more information before they call this an act of domestic terrorism. Currently the FBI are looking for a white male who seems to be in his 40s who may have information about the incident. Investigators have not indicated whether he is a suspect, only that he may be able to help with their inquiries. NAACP Colorado Springs Chapter President Henry Allen, Jr., has said that the organisation will remain open and will “move on” from the incident.
It should be emphasized that this incident is not a confirmed act of domestic terrorism or intimidation towards the NAACP. Until more facts are found and released, such a declaration would be spurious and premature at best. But past history of bombings against organizations and offices like the NAACP bear eerie similarities to this Colorado explosion. Think Progress covered the story briefly and noted that bombings were a tactic used during the Jim Crow era and had devastating effects on buildings and human lives. Could this be a return to some of those tactics? It is a worrying thought.
Birmingham, Alabama received the infamous nickname of “Bombingham” during this time period, a testament to the amount of physical violence that accompanied that era. the late Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth was a prominent civil rights campaigner in the city at that time and he stood up to the scare tactics of racists at the time. An Alabama judge outlawed the NAACP from the state, but Shuttlesworth founded a new organisation to serve the area. Because of his efforts, his home and the church he served at were bombed by Klansmen with the intent of intimidating him into leaving. He never gave up, at one point telling a police officer who was a member of the Klan that he was in Birmingham “for the duration.”
Stories like that of Shuttlesworth highlight the great personal risk that members of the civil rights movement faced. The fact that this story bears such a resemblance to the times of Jim Crow segregation is a frightening prospect. Thankfully, no one was injured and the blast was not strong enough to do real damage to the building. A charred mark on the exterior wall and some objects knocked to the floor are the only damage done. The reaction to this incident, however, has been one of strength. No one is going to be intimidated. The example of men like Rev. Shuttlesworth is alive and well in Colorado after this explosion and the NAACP is not backing down.
By Lydia Bradbury