As we celebrate Black History Month, I remember when my beloved Birmingham was known as Bombingham.
From the 1890s to the early 1960s, almost half of Birmingham’s population was black. But only 15 percent of the city land was zoned for them. Most of the areas where they were forced to live were often located in undesirableareas: next to railroad tracks, heavy industrial complexes and flood-prone creeks. The rest and the best of Birmingham’s residential areas were zoned for whites.
In 1963, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the events of that year in Birmingham, Alabama, revealed the best and worst that humanity had to offer, as some of Birmingham’s most courageous citizens non-violently protested, were beaten, arrested and died to release their city from the terrible grip of hatred and discrimination.
Tired of being forced to live in slums and crowded neighborhoods, some middle-class Black families took matters into their own hands. Among its egregious acts to restrict Blacks, the Birmingham City Commission used its power to issue or revoke building permits to prevent “construction of Negro housing contiguous to White neighborhoods.” At least 50 bombings had been launched on Black Americans in Birmingham in less than 20 years. One neighborhood was targeted so many times it was nicknamed “Dynamite Hill.” The city itself became known nationally as “Bombingham.” Continue reading