I was looking into the eyes of a black girl around thirteen years old. She looked back, her eyes pensive and a bit sullen. Then I shifted my gaze to the black woman seated as if next to her, about fifty years her senior. The woman’s eyes were those of a survivor, the eyes of someone who has lived through and somehow managed to transcend unimaginable pain.
What this woman from Birmingham, Alabama had survived was the racial violence that overtook her city in the early 1960s. The federal government had ordered Alabama’s public schools to de-segregate; Governor George Wallace was determined to resist.