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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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…

Gaston Motel

Rand Jimerson

Rand Jimerson

Age 14 in 1963

On accompanying his father, a civil rights worker, from suburban Homewood over Red Mountain to the Gaston Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr., and others from SCLC were staying, on May 8, 1963, just two days before the motel was bombed.

On Thursday night Dad asked if I wanted to drive into the city with him. He had to drop off something. The VW chugged to the crest of Red Mountain, with the lights of Birmingham spread across the valley below. Down into the city and into the black neighborhood, where I had seldom ventured. We parked in front of the Gaston Motel, where Dr. King and Reverend Shuttlesworth used a second floor office room as campaign headquarters. It was already past my usual ten o’clock bedtime, but crowds of people – mostly black, but a few whites – jammed the small lobby. Read more…

Hatred eliminated the only “sanctuary” in my life

Amos Charles Townsend

Amos Charles Townsend

Age 11 in 1963

Amos Charles Townsend was 11 when, 10 or 12 blocks away in his own church, he felt the effects of the church bombing.

As a child in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, I was witness to the turmoil in the community around the Civil Rights Movement. We had, of necessity, become more aware of hatred based on race way beyond the recognition of the grinding heel of racism we had faced all our lives. The expression of racism that kept us from being able to go to enjoy the rides of Fair Park at the State Fairgrounds in Birmingham or try on clothes at a department store or kept us drinking from a separate water fountain or attending segregated schools was something we knew. We knew the fear of seeing Bull Connor riding around in that white tank ordering us off the streets after the times they bombed Attorney Arthur Shores’ home on Center Street. We had felt the blasts in our homes during the night. Read more…

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