Western Washington University Professor Randall C. Jimerson is the author of a new book, “Shattered Glass in Birmingham: My Family’s Fight for Civil Rights, 1961-1964,” which traces the experiences of a white northern family during the civil rights movement in Alabama’s largest city.
“Shattered Glass in Birmingham,” published by LSU Press, recounts Randall Jimerson’s perspective as one of five children of the Rev. Norman C. “Jim” Jimerson during the civil rights struggle. Jim Jimerson, as executive director of the Alabama Council on Human Relations, traveled throughout Alabama as he sought to improve communications and understanding between Alabama’s black and white communities. Jim Jimerson’s success as a community activist was due largely to his ability to gain the trust of both white moderates and key figures in the civil rights movement, including Fred Shuttlesworth, Lucius Pitts, Ralph Abernathy, Wyatt T. Walker, Andrew Young, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
“This touching memoir opens the world of a teenaged boy in a liberal white family in Birmingham, Alabama, in the early 1960s, as his father struggled to bridge the city’s deep racial divisions, and he himself struggled to understand what his father was trying to do,” said J. Mills Thornton, author of “Dividing Lines: Municipal Politics and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma.”
After Klan members killed four young girls in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in September 1963, the Rev. Jimerson preserved and kept several pieces of stained glass that had blown out of the church’s windows. His family later donated the glass to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and to the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture, in memory of the many sacrifices made for racial equality. Similarly, “Shattered Glass in Birmingham” offers a fresh and important perspective on these events, supplying one of the many fragments that make up the complex story of our nation’s fight for civil liberties.
Randall Jimerson, professor of history and director of the Graduate Program in Archives and Records Management at Western, also is the author of “The Private Civil War: Popular Thought during the Sectional Conflict,” and “Archives Power: Memory, Accountability, and Social Justice.”