On the day that I was born on May 18, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama, the newspaper headlines around the country announced that the Supreme Court of the United States had outlawed public school segregation in the case entitled Brown versus Board of Education. Relatives used to tease me and say that when my mother, Quintella Dobbins Horne, a high school teacher, heard that the schools were going to be desegregated, she went into labor. However in 1963, nine years after that decision, after having skipped the second grade, I was in the fourth grade at all-Black Center Street Elementary School.
Until I was approximately eight years old, our family attended Westminster Presbyterian Church. It was pastored by Rev. John W. Rice who was the father of Condoleezza Rice. Condoleezza and I, only a few months apart in age, were in the same Sunday School class. Mrs. Rice was a music teacher and Condoleezza began playing the piano at a very early age. Soon the mothers of other young girls in the neighborhood decided that we should take piano lessons as well, whether we wanted to or not. My Mom also made sure that my younger sister Janet and I took ballet and tap dance lessons. (more…)
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. (more…)
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. (more…)
I am an African-American, a woman, a born and bred Southerner, and a Christian. I’m college educated and a heterosexual baby boomer. I am middle class, temporarily ablebodied, and a citizen of the world. Each identity shapes how I show up in the world. The first four formed the core foundation for my worldview and my purpose in the world.
I grew up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1960s. My memories of dogs and fire hoses, dynamite bombings, and senseless killings shaped my view of the world and my role in it. I too was shaped by the courage of my childhood friends marching in the streets and going to jail and by the fearless determination of the village of adults who tried to create a sense of normality in the face of unabridged hate. I was supported by a faith-filled family who believed that ultimately God was in charge. Against this backdrop, my strongly held fears and my growing rage lived side-by-side.
On September 15, 1963, fear and rage erupted into a powerful passion to fight injustice at any cost. (more…)
I was 13 years old in 1963, and a student at Homewood Junior High. I do remember the Sunday the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was bombed. Innocent children were killed in God’s house, in a terrorist act.
Before this, I was going along with the crowd. My father told my mother, my sister and me not to go downtown that summer. Every nut in the United States was congregating down there. (more…)