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

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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…

The Making of a Child Crusader

Melvin Todd

Melvin Todd

Age 16 in 1963

Melvin Todd details the indignities of growing up “Colored” in Birmingham in the 1950s and ’60s. At 16, he left school one day to join the Children’s Crusade and was disappointed not to be “jailed for our freedom.”


When I look back over the years of my life, I can recount so many experiences that primed me to become one of the children crusaders for the Civil Rights Movement.  I am sure that my experiences were the same as thousands of other African American children, growing up in Birmingham, Alabama during the 1950s and 60s.

As I recollect and assemble my memories, I see them as a montage of snippets from various movies.  These real life snippets were the events that helped make my contemporaries, and me, willing to risk personal injury, and jail, to bring about changes for a better life for our people.

If I were to make a movie draft of my life, it would include a sound track. Read more…

It did not seem real

Debbie Schreiber Crumpton

Debbie Schreiber Crumpton

Age 10 in 1963

Debbie, only 10 in 1963, now says, “I am grateful for the life experiences as they have taught me much.”


I turned 10 in 1963. I had no idea about what was going on in Birmingham at that time until the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. That Sunday it became real to me. I was in my Sunday School class at First Methodist downtown in a borrowed room at Alabama Power due to construction and renovation of our regular meeting place. There was an explosive sound and then adults running in to save us and escort us back to the main church building. I was scared. At that time the biggest thing we were worried about as children was an attack from Russia. This cowardly act came from our own citizens in our own city! It did not seem real at the time and still doesn’t. Over the last 50 years I have hopefully become more aware and compassionate toward others different from me but still all the same. I feel privileged to have lived through this and to maybe make a small difference in the world around me.