This text was transcribed from John F. Kennedy's handwritten notes. The complete images are available for online viewing here.
I am deeply concerned about the events which occurred in Birmingham, Ala. last night. The home of Reverend A.D. King was bombed and badly damaged; shortly thereafter the A.G. Gaston Motel was also bombed. These occurrences were followed by crowds, rioting, injury to a number of persons, and considerable property damage.
I am particularly distressed that these events should take place immediately following the Birmingham Agreement which promises so much progress for the Negros of that city in the realization of their just demands for equal treatment and opportunity. One of the great moral issues of our time is the achievement of equal opportunity for all citizens. Too long have Negros been denied fair treatment and equal opportunity in all parts of our land. It is increasingly clear that this injustice will no longer be tolerated by them as it should not be tolerated by any American.
These are not problems of Birmingham, the South or Negroes. They are problems which must concern all of us and to which all of us have a moral obligation to put right.
Last week the citizens of Birmingham forced us to that obligation. All of us should be grateful to them for doing so.
Nothing should be tolerated now that jeopardize the progress then made and the agreement to be carried out.
There are extremists who wish to see this agreement fail and will do what they can to achieve this end–by striking at night by inflaming emotions and by inciting or inviting violence.
The federal government stands behind this agreement. Not only the people of Birmingham but the people of the nation are the beneficiaries of this agreement. The federal government will not stand by and permit a few to sabotage it. In view of last night’s events in Birmingham I have taken the following action:
Assistant Deputy Attorney General Joseph F. Dolan and other Justice Department officials returned to Birmingham early this afternoon to consult with local citizens and assess the situation.
Assistant Attorney General Burke Marshal is returning to Birmingham this evening.
I have instructed Secretary of Defense McNamara to alert units of the Armed Forces trained in riot control and to dispatch selected units to military bases in the vicinity of Birmingham.