Were my parents correct in shielding us from the turmoil?

Constance D. Lawrence Hurst

Constance D. Lawrence Hurst

Age 8 in 1963

Connie was just 8 when she heard the bomb blast at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church from only a block away. She recalls growing up in a family whose attitudes about race shifted over time.

Our family attended Birmingham’s First Methodist Church in 1963. The Children’s building was under construction, and all the school age children were attending Sunday School in the Alabama Power building just a block away from the 16th Street Baptist church.

I remember hearing the bomb explode on September 15, 1963. All of our parents were a block away in the main sanctuary building and I remember them running into our Sunday School room in panic because they didn’t know where the bomb was.

My parents had shielded us from all the turmoil of the times. My Dad’s family was very racist but my Mom’s were not so much, and racism was not expressed in our home; my mother was VERY adamant about it.

Constance Lawrence
3rd Grade, 1963-64


When I was in the 4th grade, in 1964, our school was integrated. I remember the students arriving in buses. My Mom sat us down and told us it was ok for us to have black friends in school but, because of my Dad’s views, none could come home with us.

I’m not sure if my parents were correct in shielding us from the turmoil of the Civil Rights movement. In some ways it may have kept us from being racists ourselves but in some ways I think it may have hindered our understanding of the struggles of our African American friends. The moment of full understanding came when I visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute the first time, when I taught in the Birmingham City Schools. As I walked through with a class of students, who were all African American, I wept. I wept for those of the past who had struggled so for common rights as American citizens. I also wept for those students who were playing and laughing; not having any understanding or appreciation for what their grandparents and the preceding generations had fought.


Dr. Constance D. Lawrence Hurst wrote this original story for Kids in Birmingham 1963, where it was published in September 2019.