I remember seeing Denise in the hallway on Friday September 13, 1963 at Center Street Elementary where her mother taught. I had just been promoted to the 4th grade and would miss Mrs. McNair terribly since I would no longer be in her 3rd grade class anymore. That Sunday morning was the same as usual with us kids at the dining room table reading the funny pages of the newspaper while waiting for my grandmother to get ready for Sunday School. Hearing a blast was not unusual because of the various steam and steel plants surrounding us, (more…)
Events leading up to this past week, with so much emphasis on the bombing and murder of my Sunday School friends on September 15, 1963, have brought about very uncomfortable feelings to me of an extremely painful time of my life. I have been constantly reminded of that day when the church shook and I was splattered with glass that was shattered from the blast just a few feet from where several of my Sunday school classmates and I were. It has been very difficult constantly being reminded every day of the event. I am glad it is finally over.
Today, when people experience tragic, horrific events in their lives, they are offered counseling to help them make it through, especially schoolchildren. We were offered nothing. (more…)
I am an African-American, a woman, a born and bred Southerner, and a Christian. I’m college educated and a heterosexual baby boomer. I am middle class, temporarily ablebodied, and a citizen of the world. Each identity shapes how I show up in the world. The first four formed the core foundation for my worldview and my purpose in the world.
I grew up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1960s. My memories of dogs and fire hoses, dynamite bombings, and senseless killings shaped my view of the world and my role in it. I too was shaped by the courage of my childhood friends marching in the streets and going to jail and by the fearless determination of the village of adults who tried to create a sense of normality in the face of unabridged hate. I was supported by a faith-filled family who believed that ultimately God was in charge. Against this backdrop, my strongly held fears and my growing rage lived side-by-side.
On September 15, 1963, fear and rage erupted into a powerful passion to fight injustice at any cost. (more…)
As a child in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, I was witness to the turmoil in the community around the Civil Rights Movement. We had, of necessity, become more aware of hatred based on race way beyond the recognition of the grinding heel of racism we had faced all our lives. The expression of racism that kept us from being able to go to enjoy the rides of Fair Park at the State Fairgrounds in Birmingham or try on clothes at a department store or kept us drinking from a separate water fountain or attending segregated schools was something we knew. We knew the fear of seeing Bull Connor riding around in that white tank ordering us off the streets after the times they bombed Attorney Arthur Shores’ home on Center Street. We had felt the blasts in our homes during the night. (more…)
In the spring of 1963, I was just completing my first year as a teacher in the Birmingham School System. During that year, I saw my career threatened as nearly ALL of the students at Ullman High (and other schools in the system) were arrested for demonstrating, jailed, and subsequently expelled from school. As a teacher, I was required to EXPEL most of my students.
The Birmingham schools were still segregated and our school was, of course, all African American. After the administration expelled most of the students, the next step was to lay off the teachers, as there were very few students left in the schools. Fortunately (for me and the students), a Federal court overturned the expulsions, and ordered the students back into the schools. (more…)