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1963 was the 92nd year after the founding of the City of Birmingham.

A watershed in the Civil Rights Movement occurred in 1963 when Birmingham Civil Rights Movement leader Fred Shuttlesworth requested that Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) come to Birmingham to help end segregation (see below). Together they launched "Project C" (for "Confrontation"), a massive assault on the Jim Crow system. During April and May daily sit-ins and mass marches were met with police repression, tear gas, attack dogs, and arrests. More than 3,000 people were arrested during these protests, many of them children. These protests were ultimately successful, leading not only to desegregation of public accommodations in Birmingham but also the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

While imprisoned for having taken part in a nonviolent protest, Dr. King wrote the now famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail," a defining treatise in his cause against segregation. Birmingham is also known for a bombing which occurred later that year, in which four black girls were killed by a bomb planted at the 16th Street Baptist Church. The event would inspire the African-American poet Dudley Randall's opus, "Ballad of Birmingham," as well as jazz musician John Coltrane's song, "Alabama."



Christmas shopping on 2nd Avenue North in December 1963. Photo by Spider Martin.

Civil Rights Movement

ACMHR pin.jpg







Charles Barkley
A. C. Roper




Albert Boutwell. courtesy BPL Archives




Collins, McNair, Robertson, and Wesley


See also List of Birmingham homicides in 1963


Letter from Birmingham City Jail cover.jpg


2121 Building
Fritz Woehle residence



  • One Grain of Sand, Odetta
  • Odetta Sings Folk Songs, Odetta
  • Angels and Demons at Play, Sun Ra and his Myth Science Arkestra
  • When Sun Comes Out, Sun Ra and his Myth Science Arkestra



In 1963, the Vietnam War continued. Travel and financial transactions by U.S. citizens with Cuba were prohibited. The Beatles recorded and release their debut album, Please Please Me. Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 705 crashed in the Florida Everglades killing all 43 persons aboard. Country music superstar Patsy Cline was killed in a plane crash. The Alcatraz Island federal penitentiary in San Francisco Bay closed. The Coca-Cola Company introduced its first diet drink, Tab cola. NASA flew the final Mercury program mission. Vostok 6 carried Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman, into space. The Supreme Court ruled in Abington School District v. Schempp that state-mandated Bible reading in public schools is unconstitutional. Pope Paul VI succeeded Pope John XXIII.

Also in 1963, ZIP Codes were introduced. Hurricane Flora hit Hispaniola and Cuba killing nearly 7,000 people. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas; Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson became the 36th President. Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin was later shot dead by Jack Ruby on live national television. A lightning strike caused the crash of Pan Am Flight 214 near Elkton, Maryland, killing 81 people. Kenya and Zanzibar became independent from Great Britain. The cruise ship Lakonia burned 180 miles north of Madeira, killing 128.

Books published in 1963 included Planet of the Apes (La Planète des Singes) by Pierre Boulle, Inside Mr. Enderby by Anthony Burgess, The Clocks by Agatha Christie, The Collector by John Fowles, On Her Majesty's Secret Service by Ian Fleming, The Spy who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré, Ice Station Zebra by Alistair MacLean, Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, and The Graduate by Charles Webb.

Top pop music hits of 1963 included "He's So Fine" by The Chiffons, "Fingertips Pt. 2" by Little Stevie Wonder, "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, and "Dominique" by The Singing Nun. The Grammy Awards for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year went to "Days of Wine and Roses" by Henry Mancini. Album of the Year went to The Barbra Streisand Album by Barbra Streisand. Best New Artist was awarded to Ward Swingle of The Swingle Singers.

The top-grossing films of 1963 included Cleopatra, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, How the West Was Won, The Birds, and From Russia With Love. The Academy Award for Best Picture went to Tom Jones, as did Best Director (Tony Richardson). Best Actor went to Sidney Poitier for Lilies of the Field, while Best Actress went to Patricia Neal for Hud.

Television premieres of 1963 included Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, General Hospital, The Outer Limits, The Fugitive, and Petticoat Junction. Also premiering in the United Kingdom was BBC television science fiction series Doctor Who. Series that ended in 1963 included The Voice of Firestone, The Real McCoys, and Leave It to Beaver,

Notable births in 1963 included baseball pitcher David Cone, singer and actress Vanessa L. Williams, model and actress Kathy Ireland, chess player Garry Kasparov, actor Eric McCormack, entertainer Conan O'Brien, martial artist and actor Jet Li, actress Natasha Richardson, comedian and actor Mike Myers, actor Johnny Depp, actress Helen Hunt, singer George Michael, actress Phoebe Cates, actress Lisa Kudrow, rapper Coolio, computer hacker Kevin Mitnick, singer Whitney Houston, actor John Stamos, singer Tori Amos, singer Richard Marx, baseball player Mark McGwire, and actor Brad Pitt.

Notable deaths included businessman and politician Robert S. Kerr, country singer Patsy Cline, Pope John XXIII, civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois, conductor Fritz Reiner, criminal Robert Stroud, writer Aldous Huxley, President John F. Kennedy, novelist C. S. Lewis, and wrestler "Gorgeous George" Wagner.

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