• 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.
    • 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.

’We must be kind”

Nathan Turner Jr.

Nathan Turner Jr.

Age 10 in 1963

The son of school teachers, Nathan had a childhood that was largely protected from racism. Yet there was no escaping the apartheid of Birmingham, Alabama.


In 1963, black people’s hopes and aspirations collided with the heart and mindset of a segregated Birmingham. That confluence led to the civil rights demonstrations and strife that defined the city and Alabama for decades afterward.

That year I was 10.

I lived on Center Way in the (mostly) placid community of South Titusville, in southwest Birmingham. Read more…

We “clicked”

Charlotte Clarke Houston

Charlotte Clarke Houston

Age 13 in 1963

Charlotte, 13, had just made a new friend in August 1963.


My recollection of 1963 centers around gaining a new friend at a swimming outing in August 1963, and losing her in the church bombing a month later. Sixteenth Street Baptist Church had an all-day youth pool outing at Memorial Recreation Center.  I was invited by my paternal aunts, one the long-time organist for the church (Mary Alice Stollenwerck) and the other a long-time member (Myrtle Lumpkin) and teacher. That day I met Addie Mae Collins and we “clicked,” spending all day chatting in the corner of the swimming pool while most of the other kids swam and ran about. I was excited about the closeness we rapidly formed during the day. A month later I was horrified to learn that she was one of the victims of the bombing that killed her and three other girls that I knew by name and family affiliation at church only. Read more…

“In Ourselves Our Future Lies”

James Nelson, Jr.

James Nelson, Jr.

Age 16 in 1963

A young activist growing up in Birmingham, James Nelson, Jr. learned that “nothing really comes easy.”


Just three and a half years after surviving my unhappiest year, 1963, the Birmingham News interviewed four young adults to speak about changes in the New South. In its May 21, 1967 edition, while a student at Miles College, I was recorded saying, “the South is improving, but you learn that you must struggle to achieve something. You learn that nothing really comes easy.”

Indeed, life during the fall of 1963 was far from easy in one old, hateful southern city: Birmingham, Alabama. I was a senior at Ullman High School eagerly awaiting graduation in its winter class. Cynthia Wesley was a fourteen-year-old student at Ullman; I was two years older. We first exchanged flirting glances. Then, through our friends, we passed little innocent notes to each other. After these notes, our friendship blossomed. She was so smart, happy, and full of hope. I still remember her smile that melted away all my shy defenses. Read more…

The whole truth

Ann Jimerson

Ann Jimerson

Age 12 in 1963

An art project offered Ann the chance to share honest outrage in a place where that might not be safe.


Mom had a long list of values to instill in us. Probably at the top of the list was: “Always tell the truth.” Just as I entered fifth grade, we moved to Birmingham, where that rule was about to get more nuanced: there was “the truth” and there was “the whole truth.”

Dad moved Mom and us four kids to Birmingham so he could join the civil rights movement. He may have been the only white man in the state whose fulltime job was civil rights. Mom and Dad had cautioned us not to talk about Dad’s work. With our teachers, neighbors, and friends, that piece of the truth could mean trouble. We navigated a fine line, technically never telling a lie but holding back most of what mattered to us. Read more…

Coach Little kept order

Greg Bass

Greg Bass

Age 13 in 1963

Greg Bass recalls where he was when he learned of Kennedy’s assassination


At 1 p.m. 50 years ago today I was in my 8th grade gym class when we heard the radio report over the PA system announcing the President’s death. The South had begun to turn against JFK due to his speeches advocating civil rights. Coach Little, a proud former Marine, stood in front of our class and announced that if he heard anyone laugh or giggle or saw anyone smile, he would ”take them down.” He was an intimidating figure and we knew he meant what he said. We stood at attention for about 30 minutes before we were told to get dressed and school was dismissed early. We went home wondering what the future held for us. As John Lee Hooker observed, it was a mighty time.