It's a packed house at 16th Street Baptist Church for a program just before the re-enactment of the Children's March. Source: Clare Huddleston
The march began at 16th Street Baptist church. (Source: Alan Collins)
The re-enactment of the Children's March ended at Railroad Park. (Source: Alan Collins)
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -
[Warning: One of the people interviewed for this story uses strong language when quoting Bull Connor.]
Fifty years ago today, nearly 1,000 children marched in the streets of Birmingham to make a stand for civil rights. They ended up facing the brunt of fire hoses and police dogs. The video from that day painted a ghastly picture for the nation and some call it a pivotal part of the Civil Rights Movement that finally led to change in the Magic City.
On Thursday, after watching a documentary at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church several hundred Birmingham high school and Miles College students staged a reenactment of the march. The students started at 16th Street Baptist Church, just like the 1963 Children's March, and ended up at Railroad Park.
Many of the students said they were impressed with the Children's Crusade.
"I wanted to feel like what those children felt and was fighting for our freedom to show we can make a difference. This is our generation. We can make difference," Disney Gordwin from Woodlawn High School said.
"When you fought for freedom, it was like wow. They really did this for us. So we got equal rights," Robert Wilson of Woodlawn High School said.
Among those in the original Children's March was Claressie Hardy. Hardy was in the march 50 years ago. She was 13 when they arrested her.
"I wanted to make a change for human rights and that is why I became a foot soldier. I went to jail. 'Cause I was 13, I was taken to juvenile detention where I stayed for eight days," Hardy said.
She remembers a fateful encounter shortly after being arrested.
"They took us on a school bus. During that time were on the bus singing. Bull Conner came on the bus and saying, 'Y'a'll niggers quit singin.' We decided we were not going to let Bull Conner turn us around. We weren't afraid. It was fun at the time," Hardy said.
Former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones also joined in the march. Jones help bring two of the 16th Street church bombers to justice.
"I want young kids to understand the civil rights movement is not a history, it's an ongoing process. It's not a sprint. It's not a marathon, it's a relay and the batton has been given to them," Jones said.
Recently, FOX6 News anchor Scott Richards caught up with some of the students who participated in the 1963 Children's March. They remembered the night before they were told to bring a toothbrush because they knew they would end up in jail after the march. The entire strategy of the Birmingham campaign depended on people walking and getting arrested. Some say it is ironic that ending up behind bars is what eventually would lead to freedom.
"I woke up with my mind on freedom. I was set on doing what was before me. Going to get my freedom," said child marcher Janice Wesley.