This was originally published on Equal Voice News
It was New Year’s Day, January 1, 1966. My older sister, several of my younger siblings, a cousin and I had attended the annual Elmore County Emancipation Proclamation Celebration (the observance of Abraham Lincoln’s signing the proclamation freeing Blacks from slavery).
The guest speaker for this occasion was a Birmingham civil rights preacher, Rev. Jesse Douglas, whose powerful message and melodious voice singing, “I told Jesus that it would be all right, if he changed my name,” had the audience on its feet for most of his sermon.
Little did I know that he was preparing us for the most traumatic experience of our lives, which would take place in less than four hours.
We went home, excitedly sharing with our parents the experience of the evening with this wonderful civil rights preacher. Our parents listened and allowed us an opportunity to get settled, before giving us the final warning to cut off the light and go to sleep.
At around 1 a.m., less than two hours after our arrival, homemade fire bombs hit three different sides of our house. Exploding flames blocked all exits except one.
There were 11 of us inside, and nine were asleep. Thank God we all made it out safely. Our home burned to the ground.
Although my dad gave the sheriff a homemade bomb that had bounced into his pickup truck that night without exploding, the news reported there was “no evidence of foul play.” No investigation was ever done.
My sister and I were among the first Black students to attend Wetumpka High School under a Freedom of Choice plan.
Our motive was simple: We wanted the best education possible in order to attend Tuskegee Institute (University).
It was a decision made with my parents but not any organized effort. Although I will hasten to add that my family was active in the NAACP. My uncle was chapter president, and my sister and I were both in leadership roles in the youth chapter.
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