Black History Month: The Shores Sisters and Dynamite Hill

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Civil Rights Attorney Arthur Shores was at the forefront of litigation and The Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham. As a result, he and his family became targets of people who sought to silence the movement. His daughters, Judge Helen Shores Lee, and Barbara Shores sat down with CBS42 to talk about how their father’s legacy and how it has helped shape Birmingham’s past, present and future.

Looking at Center Street today, you’d never guess the tight knit community was a popular target for the Ku Klux Klan. Guns, riots and bombings were so common that the community earned the nickname, Dynamite Hill. Jefferson County Judge, Helen Shores Lee grew up in that community during the Civil Rights Movement at the height of zoning changes that would lead to neighborhood integration. No one, including the Shores family, was safe from the attacks.

 “The smell of the dynamite was so strong it was like a hypodermic needle shooting up into my nose through my eyes and everything it was so strong.” Barbara Shores

For Center Street neighbors, staying watchful was key to survival. “Everyone near home fought to hit the floor immediately and crawl to safety,” said Barbara. The bombs weren’t the only threats. Angry mobs often took to the hill in hopes of dismantling the people behind the movement, attacking them right at the heart of it all, their homes.

“I can remember my father telling me not to hate the people, to forgive them because the hate would destroy me and we were a very religious family, and then the whole family went in to pray and he was asking for forgiveness for the people who’d done the crime.” Barbara Shores

While many of those crimes remain unsolved, Lee believes the mentality behind them remains.

“I think racism in our state, in our city is very much alive and well and operates every day.” -Helen Shores Lee

To combat it she suggests reaching out to the next generation. And instill in them tolerance, compassion and love. And above all else, never forget the past.

Copyright 2014 WIAT-CBS42

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