Why We Can’t Wait


Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. (Dr. King)

The author of Why We Can’t Wait, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a prominent leader of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s. A Baptist minister from Georgia, he believed in… read analysis of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Dr. King)

Fred Shuttlesworth

Fred Shuttlesworth was an important leader of the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. As a Christian minister and the leader of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, Shuttlesworth worked alongside… read analysis of Fred Shuttlesworth

Ralph Abernathy

Ralph Abernathy was an activist and leader in the civil rights movement. He worked closely with Dr. King on multiple campaigns for racial equality. A fellow Christian minister and member of the SCLC, he… read analysis of Ralph Abernathy

Eugene “Bull” Connor (Bull Connor)

Bull Connor was the Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham, Alabama from 1957 to 1963. A racist who fought to uphold segregation, he used aggressive tactics to intimidate Black protestors working with Dr. King and… read analysis of Eugene “Bull” Connor (Bull Connor)

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. Dr. King points to him as one of the few presidents in American history who took significant measures to advocate for Black Americans, since he… read analysis of Abraham Lincoln
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John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was the 35th president of the United States. Dr. King refers to President Kennedy multiple times throughout Why We Can’t Wait, viewing him as a promising young president whose impact on… read analysis of John F. Kennedy

Albert Boutwell

Albert Boutwell was the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama from 1963 to 1967. Like Bull Connor—his opponent in the mayoral race—he was a segregationist, though he was a little less aggressive and adamant about the… read analysis of Albert Boutwell

Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte is a Jamaican-American singer and activist. Known as the “King of Calypso,” he was an adamant supporter of the campaign for desegregation in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. He helped Dr. King and the… read analysis of Harry Belafonte

A. D. King

A. D. King was one of Dr. King’s brothers. A fellow Christian minister, he was involved in the 1963 campaign for racial equality. When the movement achieved success by convincing Birmingham’s white leaders to… read analysis of A. D. King
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Tom King
Tom King was a segregationist who ran in the 1963 mayoral race in Birmingham, Alabama. He lost to both Bull Connor and Albert Boutwell, who went on to challenge each other in a run-off election.