• Albert Domm
    • Amos Charles Townsend
    • Ann Jimerson
    • Anne Whitehouse
    • Annewhite Thomas Fuller
    • Barbara Cross
    • Bob Diccicco
    • Carl Carter
    • Carol Nunnelley
    • Charlotte Clarke Houston
    • Chervis Isom
    • Dale Long
    • Debbie Schreiber Crumpton
    • Deborah Davis Dent
    • Deborah J. Walker
    • Deborah Miller-Smith
    • Diane McWhorter
    • Diane Smith Grych
    • Elizabeth MacQueen
    • Freeman Hrabowski
    • Gail Horne Ray
    • Glenn Ellis
    • Greg Bass
    • Harold Jackson
    • Herman Whitehead
    • Howell Raines
    • Ingrid Kraus
    • Jacquelin Clarke Bell
    • James Nelson, Jr.
    • Janice Wesley Kelsey
    • Jeff Drew
    • Jim Lowe
    • John Bagby
    • Joyce Kent
    • Judith Schlinkert Toxey
    • Katherine Ramage
    • Kathy Stiles Freeland
    • Kelly Martin Laney
    • L.A. Simmons
    • Lawrence Bentley
    • Mamie King-Chalmers
    • Marti Turnipseed
    • Mary Bush
    • Melvin Todd
    • Mike Diccicco
    • Mike Marston
    • Nathan Turner Jr.
    • Rand Jimerson
    • Robert Corley
    • Sam Rumore
    • Shirley Holmes Sims
    • Susie Hale
    • Tamara Harris Johnson
    • Virginia Jones

We were kids in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. That tumultuous year transformed the nation and shaped our lives. These are our stories.

Teachers and students: Visit our Class Room for ideas on using our primary sources and to interview the storytellers. Media, journalists, historians: Visit our Press Room to contact storytellers in your area. Keep checking this site for new stories – or, better yet, sign up for e-mail alerts.

A City, a Mountain, and a Tiny Kingdom

John Bagby

John Bagby

Age 14 in 1963

John Bagby grew up in a home where Margaret Brown cooked, cleaned, and did his family’s laundry. Fifty years later, he wonders what Margaret must have thought as she boarded the bus in downtown Birmingham and headed to Mountain Brook, the well-to-do, all-white suburb that John refers to as “The Tiny Kingdom.”


Margaret Brown lived in Titusville, a neighborhood in Birmingham. Two months before I was born in 1949, she was hired to come and live with my family, and work in our home six days a week as a maid, or “the help,” as folks in Mountain Brook would have said back then. I would imagine that Margaret had dreams like any other young woman: a husband, a family of her own, perhaps. She probably knew she was abandoning those dreams when she took the offer to come cook, clean, and do the laundry for my family. I can only imagine what Margaret was thinking when she boarded the #50 Crestline bus in downtown Birmingham, leaving her world and heading for “The Tiny Kingdom.”  Read more…

Niggertown: How separation distorts our perceptions

Carl Carter

Carl Carter

Age 10 in 1963

Carl Carter recalls that everything about society in Birmingham in the 1950s and 1960s was orchestrated to keep the races separated. Looking at statistics from Birmingham today, he wonders whether that’s really “all behind us.”


My buddy and I had ridden our bikes several blocks to the northwest – farther than we were supposed to. The sun was going down, and we knew it was time to head home. But we looked at the forbidden land just a hundred feet or so away.

That was where they lived, and it was pretty much where they stayed. From years of hearing stories, I imagined streets where chaos ruled. Where knives flickered in every direction, and people lived in ramshackle huts. Where a white man would be dead in minutes if he dared stepped over the line. In my imagination, there was an eerie glow over the neighborhood. Read more…

What was going on?

Bob Diccicco

Bob Diccicco

Age 10 in 1963

An outing with his mom held an unforgettable scene.


It was 1963. I was 10 years old. I was in the 5th grade and looking forward to the day. My Mom was taking me downtown, on the bus, for a Dr.’s appointment. I was excited because she had promised me a visit to the lunch counter at FW Woolworths for a chocolate milkshake.

All I can remember is that we were leaving the store to catch our bus home. We came out onto the street and there was a large crowd. All ages, mostly black, children and adults, yelling and screaming and crying. Read more…

All fired up and ready to participate again

Mamie King-Chalmers

Mamie King-Chalmers

Age 22 in 1963

When Mamie King-Chalmers signed up for the Birmingham Children’s Crusade she knew she would likely be heading to jail. After five days in jail, she went back to march again. On May 3, 1963, photojournalist Charles Moore caught an image of Mamie as she was slammed against a building by a blast of water from a high-powered fire hose. The iconic photo helped to rally the civil rights movement and energize people throughout the US, paving the way for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.


Mamie King Chalmers w iconic photoMy name is Mamie King-Chalmers and this is my photo. I was one of the young adults that fought in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. That photo is important to me because it shows my participation in the civil rights struggle and it’s a legacy for my children and my grandchildren to carry on.

During those times I had faith, courage, and I was willing to do anything to help with the conditions that was being brought upon us in the South. My whole family was involved in the civil rights struggle. My father said, “We’re going down and get involved.” That’s what I believed in and that’s what I did, and that’s what I will continue to do. Read more…

Broke free from the pack

Mike Diccicco

Mike Diccicco

Age 14 in 1963

As he chose his seat on a crowded Birmingham bus, Mike Diccicco wasn’t thinking about historic significance. But his simple choice that day was Mike’s response to a changed world, brought about by “countless numbers of ordinary people who risked so much.”


I grew up in Birmingham with nine brothers and sisters, went to St. Barnabas and John Carroll, graduated 8th grade and entered high school in 1963. But my most striking memory of that era had to have happened later, probably after the Civil Rights bill was signed on July 2, 1964.

I used to ride public transportation home from basketball practice, travelling from the Southside to East Lake. I had to transfer from one bus to another in downtown Birmingham, getting on a bus whose route had already taken it through areas of the city mostly inhabited by African Americans. At some point (not sure exactly when), the bus company had been required to remove the signs that read “Colored to the Rear.” Read more…