In 1963, I was eleven. I lived in Central City, a housing project in downtown Birmingham, with my mother. This project was all white. The demonstrations were to us an inconvenience. We couldn’t spend Saturday at Woolworths, Kress’ or the other downtown stores. I couldn’t go to the Alabama Theater. I was a member of the “Flying G Club.” This was started by Guaranty Savings and Loan. If you deposited at least twenty-five cents in a savings account you got a ticket to the Alabama Theater to see a morning program that included a show.
Yet one routine stayed, going grocery shopping with my mother on Thursdays. We went to the A &P store on 8th Avenue and 18th Street. We had a small buggy we would roll on the route from our apartment at 6th Terrace between 22nd and 23rd streets to the store. I remember walking by a helmeted National Guard solider with a weapon (a rifle, I think) posted on the corner of 8th Avenue and 19th Street. (more…)
In 1963, I was a student and would-be journalist at Howard College (now Samford University), one of Birmingham’s whites-only institutions intent on ignoring and resisting the civil rights revolution outside their gates. All that effort to shield us, and restrict us, and yet my memories of college years nonetheless are memories of Birmingham and civil rights.
I arrived at Howard with only a rudimentary sense of racial fairness. (more…)
Brooke Hill seniors, on whom we all had crushes, chauffeured us downtown to the Melba Theater for a sneak preview of the movie – the official premiere was taking place the following night. At the beginning of the show, we nodded appreciatively when Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) told his daughter, “Don’t say nigger, Scout,” and we recognized Calpurnia, the family maid, as a dead ringer for the fussy black women of our own kitchens. But soon our minds balked at the racial world of Scout’s South Alabama. For the first time, we came face-to-face with the central racial preoccupation of the southern white psyche, the dynamics that justified and ennobled Our Way of Live: the rape of a white woman by a black man. (more…)