Terrorism is nothing new to us

Jeff Drew

Jeff Drew

Age 12 in 1963

Jeff Drew’s family lived in a neighborhood targeted by the Ku Klux Klan. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a frequent overnight guest in the Drew home on his visits from Atlanta.

I can remember when the first black families tried to buy homes on the other side of Center Street, which marked Birmingham’s color line. If you wanted to get a house on the west side of Center Street chances are you were going to have some resistance from white folks. At first, the Ku Klux Klan would burn the doors of the houses that African-Americans moved into. Sometimes members of the Klan would fire shots into the dark of night. Those big cathedral windows were what were being shot at all of the time.

We all knew a dynamite blast was coming when we heard decommissioned police cruisers burning rubber up Center Street. Flying up the hill. They’d throw that bomb, and we used to marvel at how fast those guys could drive. Cowards. Right up the hill. It’s no wonder they called our city Bombingham – and the neighborhood where we lived Dynamite Hill.

Terrorism is a new term, but is nothing new to us. We were terrorized back in the ‘50s and ‘60s almost every day. It was commonplace. But we stayed, because we knew we were on the right side of a cause we cared about. The Civil Rights movement was successful in making Negro-Americans a human being.

I was with my dad at one time where the Klan called him and said, “Nigger Drew, we gon’ bomb your house tonight.” Dad said, “What you call me for? Come on, come on. Do it right now. You don’t have to call me. Just come on.” He hung the phone up. Dad was courageous, as were other people up here.

I live in my parents’ house today, and I’ve kept the long, tall brick wall they put up around the house to protect us from bullets and bombs. I won’t tear it down. That wall was built as a testament not to fold in the face of violence and terrorism.

But the bigger story is the degree of determination we all felt.  We “wanted” to go to jail, we “wanted” to march.  We were not afraid to die for the cause of freedom and equality, and we still are!  Freedom is not free. It requires a continuous commitment to maintain.  Sadly many have abused this freedom and slowly those freedoms gained on the lives of people like us, may soon be lost. We need for today’s kids to embrace intelligence and dignity.

This story is posted at KidsInBirmingham1963.org with the express permission of Jeff Drew. Portions of Jeff Drew’s story first appeared in Remembering Birmingham’s ‘Dynamite Hill’ Neighborhood, a July 6, 2013, report by Debbie Elliott for NPR, National Public Radio. To view an interview at AL.com, see Jeff Drew: Son of couple who sheltered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recalls KKK bomb threats.