• 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 Houston Nixon
    • 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.
    • Pamela Walbert Montanaro
    • 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.

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.



Chervis Isom

Chervis Isom

Age 23 in 1963

Chervis Isom had grown up in a segregated world, where Jim Crow laws forced separation of the races. The summer of 1961, when he was 21, was the first time he observed those laws being applied against someone he knew and respected. As he says, “It turned out to be a life-changing summer.”

He pointed to large, raised letters near the end of the dusty eight inch steel pipe. With one swipe, I brushed them clean. “Made in Belgium,” I muttered, as if he needed my translation. Then he stalked away. I studied the dozens of identical pipe stacked in the yard. The electric grinder he had given me, now hanging from my hand, seemed wholly inadequate for the job I had been told to do.

As I dithered, trying to figure out the best way to begin, I noticed the colored guy—they called him Arizona—watching me. His neutral face showed no emotion, but I knew he must have been amused to watch a college boy flounder in ignorance and incompetence.

How do I begin? I wondered. Is there a place to sit? If I sit on the pipe, will it roll? There must be a trick to this somehow. Arizona watched quietly. After a few moments, I looked at him. “You done this before?” Read more…