Mamie King-Chalmers

Mamie King-Chalmers

Mamie King-Chalmers was born June 19, 1941, in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up in the Jim Crow South.  Mamie noticed the injustices when she was child, always questioning why Blacks were treated so badly. In 1963, Dr. King came to Birmingham to speak of the injustices, bombings, and segregation, and Mamie and her family went to see this man who had the same last name as they did. Mamie’s entire family joined the Children’s Crusade and became Footsoldiers for the Civil Rights Movement.  Mamie went throughout her neighborhood in French Town, Pratt City, Ensley, and Fairfield recruiting people to come out to march and participate.

An organizer, she was at Kelly Ingram Park daily, protesting, always in the forefront leading the way. She was targeted by Eugene “Bull” Connor, who gave orders to the police and fire departments, for her leadership, determination, courage, and bravery.  She was chased by dogs, beaten, and spent five days in jail under horrible conditions. She was hosed at Bull Connor’s command. Black Star photographer Charles Moore captured these events.  He took hundreds of photos and many of them were of Mamie. One particular photo of Mamie being hosed, with two unidentified young men, became a famous iconic photo. This photo gained national attention, rallying the civil rights movement and alerting the world to the horrors that Blacks faced in Birmingham.

Mamie King-Chalmers went on to receive her Associate Degree in Applied Science in Gerontology. She is active in many organizations, including Shoes for Children of Liberia Committee, the Elders Circle, Detroit Metropolitan Association, Youth Awareness Group, Detroit Parents Network, and Ladies of Distinction Social Club. She has served as President of the Berry King Scholarship Fund, Sankofa Travel, the Detroit chapter of the Western/Jackson-Olin Alumni Association, and the King-Gill Genealogical Study Group. She was the organizer for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington Detroit Walk. You may read more about her in the book “Her Stolen Pride: The Life and Times of Civil Rights Activist Mamie King-Chalmers.”

On December 10, 2013, Mamie was officially honored by Birmingham, Alabama Mayor William Bell and Birmingham City Council, when they presented her with the Key to the City. Throughout Mamie’s life she has been an inspiration to all, admired for her courage and bravery.  Mamie has 9 children, 22 grandchildren, and 1 great grandchild. Mamie King Chalmers has said, “My life has been a Struggle and I will continue to Struggle with Faith and Courage until the work is done.” She passed away in 2022.

All fired up and ready to participate again

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.