Inspired by our mother, our whole family marched

Janice Houston Nixon

Janice Houston Nixon

Age 8 in 1963

Only 8 years old, Janice joined her family in the marches that shifted Birmingham’s history – and brought dramatic change to the nation. She and her sister made history, too, by desegregating two of Birmingham’s all-white schools.

In thinking back about the Children’s Crusade I have very vivid memories. Even though I was young, I remember very well the terrible things that happened to black people in the 60s. My sister Carolyn Houston was one who did get arrested along with so many others, and she was put in the Birmingham City Jail. She was only 13 years old. My brother James Houston, was one of those who were taken to the Alabama State Fairgrounds.

I remember so well when we picked Carolyn up from the Birmingham City Jail. She spent several days locked up, and the story she told about the inhumane treatment they received was heartbreaking. My other sister Diane Houston was not jailed but faithfully marched for freedom facing dogs and fire hoses.

We were all inspired by our mother Mrs. Marie Montgomery, who was a true Foot Soldier. Although I was only 8 years old, I too marched faithfully side by sides with my family.

In 1964 my sister Carolyn decided on another path. She decided to enroll in an All White school, Ensley High, where she became the very first Black Person to graduate in 1965. At the age of 16, she graduated with Honors.

I decided to tell my sister’s story in 2014 while celebrating at Ensley Park with other alumni members who had no idea where it all begin. Since then so much has happened to pay recognition to her for her contributions. The Ensley High School Alumni decided to present the very first Carolyn Houston Crumbley Major Scholarship this year, on July 9, 2016. The event was at the Ensley Soho Building 1820 Ave E. Ensley at 3pm, honoring the Legacy of a Civil Rights Pioneer.


As part of an effort to recognize her sister, Carolyn Houston, for her role in desegregating Ensley high School, Janice Houston Nixon tells her own story of the events of 1963. She wrote this original piece in 2016 for Kids in Birmingham 1963. For Ms. Nixon’s firsthand account of her experience desegregating Minor Elementary School in 1967, listen to this 2016 radio interview, “The Junction: Stories from Ensley, Alabama – Janice Houston Nixon.”