In 1983, as a reporter for The Birmingham News, I wrote several stories looking back at the events of 1963. I worked with other reporters to track down many of the school children who had heeded Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to march in downtown Birmingham. Most of them, like Bernita Roberson Sawyer, had been jailed. She was 14 at the time, not much older than me, and had spent five days in jail. They described what it was like to be in jail as children and recalled how those events had shaped their lives as adults. In June, I wrote a 20-year retrospective on Gov. George Wallace’s “stand in the schoolhouse door” at the University of Alabama. Most of the key figures of that day were still alive, including Deputy U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, who was still angry 20 years later about being made to stand in the sweltering sun while Wallace made his stand in the shade. Then in September, 20 years after the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that killed four little girls, I had a front page interview with Chris McNair, the father of one of those girls, Denise. (more…)
In 1963 I was 10 years old and believed life in the South was unfair to blacks. I grew up in the West Princeton-Rising neighborhood and was number 8 of 11 children. My father worked for United States Steel (USS) and my mother was a homemaker.
Lomb Avenue divided West Princeton-Rising from West End, which was the white neighborhood. We had to cross that Ave when doing neighborhood shopping. The white kids would name call and throw rocks at us.
Two of my sisters and one brother, attended A. H. Parker high school during the year of 1963. They were given very stern instructions, that morning of the Children’s Crusade, not to leave school for any reason. My brother evidently didn’t hear those instructions because he did participate. Thankfully for him he was not arrested. That evening we all watched the evening news and my siblings were pointing out some of their classmates.
I saw then that the blacks in Alabama were standing for something. It made me see that equality could be made possible for blacks but only if they fought for it.
Veronica Jackson wrote this story expressly for Kids in Birmingham 1963 in December 2020.
What I remember most about our marching in 1963, was my being jailed after leaving Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, making it to City Hall, and being thrown in the paddy wagon with all guys! Being kept at the Fairgrounds, and later being sent to the County Jail, for taking part in trying to stop one of the police officers from raping one of the girls. I was kept in a sweat box for days upon days, and kept in jail over a month before my family located me! They kept saying I was too young to be there, but they tried to lose me. (more…)
I attended Brunetta C. Hill Elementary School and grew up in Smithfield, near the historic A. H. Parker High School.
I was a member of First Congregational Christian Church (United Church of Christ). My church was very much involved in social justice and the Civil Rights Movement. I would attend some of the civil rights meetings with my parents.
In 1963, my family and I moved to the College Hills neighborhood, about 5 blocks from Dynamite Hill.*
One Sunday in 1965, we were at church and had to be evacuated by Birmingham’s SWAT team and Bomb Squad because a bomb was placed outside in front of a church a block south of our church. This was rather traumatic as church was to be a safe and sacred place. That bomb did not explode.** (more…)