Remembering 1963

Week 49.  Historical Events.  Describe a memorable national historical event from your childhood.  How old were you and how did you process this event?  How did it affect your family? 
Me in the upper left corner. News photos from 1963.
In 1963 I was 16 and a junior at Northwestern High School in Detroit.  In the news were pictures of dogs  attacking people who were peacefully demonstrating, high pressure hoses being used on people who were peacefully demonstrating, bombings of homes and churches, people being abused while sitting at lunch counters, people  being arrested. Governor George Wallace of Alabama, stood in the door to block the integration of the University of Alabama. Women were dragged from demonstrations to the paddy wagon. Medgar Evers was murdered in Jackson, MS in front of his home. Four girls were blown up while attending Sunday school in Birmingham, Alabama.   Two teenage boys were killed during the rioting afterwards.  There were two gigantic demonstrations that year, the Detroit Walk to Freedom followed by the March on Washington. Both drew over 100,000. President Kennedy was assassinated. Lee Harvey Oswald was killed, Cassius Clay who had not yet become Muhammad Ali was winning fight after fight. Malcolm X was speaking out and Martin Luther King, Jr was arrested in Birmingham, AL.  Here and there people began to wear their hair in  afros. In Detroit, the Freedom Now Party was seeking petitions to get on the ballot for the 1964 election and  Malcolm X spoke at the Grassroots Conference.
How did all of this affect me and my family?  I was angry but I also felt I was part of the struggle of the black community. I wondered why the federal government didn’t send troops down south to protect people who wanted to vote. I wrote revolutionary poetry. It wasn’t very good poetry. My family talked about everything that was happening. They were publishing the Illustrated News during that time and wrote about changes that had to come and the movement of the struggle from the south to the north and what the differences would be as this happened.

5 thoughts on “Remembering 1963

  1. As a child of the 60s, I remember so many of the events you outlined above. I remember wondering if anything would ever be "normal" again — not realizing at the time that "normal" might have been part of the problem. I was a freshman in high school when Kennedy was shot. My university was closed down with the Kent State killings. Three boys of a class of 80 (both male and female) were killed in Viet Nam. I rode to work past National Guard troops during the riots in Cincinnati in 1967. Add the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy and I wonder how we got through it.

  2. In fall 1963 I was in college in Milwaukee, learning about the civil rights movement and shaken by the assassination of JFK. Two of my professors had been in the South helping organize. Milwaukee's daily newspapers covered civil rights events regionally and nationally. After growing up in a tiny all-white town, I felt immersed in the issues and events of the time. But of course I was still outside those events, while you and your family were right at the heart of them. I thought we were all hurtling toward a perfect future of justice and equality.

  3. Kristin — 1963 — I was employed at the National Bank of Detroit then. I was in charge of branch operations for a portion of the branches. I do remember the Detroit Walk of Freedom. I was in the Main Office of the bank that day as were the rest of our crew in charge of branches. We were told to be in the office in the event of “an emergency”.

    Isn’t it interesting how all these years later we’re still protesting and still getting harassed by law enforcement. We’re still operating off fear. What have we learned?

    Love the photo of you in the upper left — beautiful as ever! Peace …

  4. National Bank of Detroit was “my” bank back when I was in Detroit. I had no account in 1963 though as I also had no job. Unless that was the year I worked the summer at Cleage Printers. Hmmmm, how can I check on that? I think it was. but I only made $10 a week for the summer so no bank acct. If there had been an”emergency” what would all you branch managers have done, gathered there in the main office? At any rate, we weren’t thinking about attacking anyone or rioting that day. It was such a wonderful feeling to walk down the street full of people walking for freedom. Sigh. and you’re right, same ol’ same ol’.

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