Birmingham students re-enact 1963 segregation march

One of Birmingham's darkest moments in the struggle for civil rights occurred 50 years ago today. It was the beginning of the Children's Crusade.

Parents warned them not to march. They were afraid for their safety. But the children would not be stopped. They gathered at 16th street Baptist Church, prayed, picked up their signs and pushed forward.

Before the day was through, busloads of children were hauled off to juvenile detention. Others were blasted by fire firehoses and attacked by police dogs.

Students today say the don't quite understand and can't imagine the hatred and racism of the 60s. But they do understand that a sacrifice was made, and the conviction behind the march.

Today, these young people held signs similar to the ones students had in 1963. Back then they had messages of equality. Today the message was "no to drugs", "stop the violence", "no cyber bullying".

In 1963, students marched to the sounds of their own voices and hands clapping. Today, a marching band lead the way. In 1963, police were on standby with dogs and billy clubs. Today, police escorts ensured their safety.

Tenth grader Laniyah Hicks says she's marching out of appreciation for what generations before endured. "I just want to walk a away feeling a sense of respect for the people who went through this because I can't imagine walking down the streets getting sprayed with water or getting spat on by white people," said Hicks.

A lot has changed in Birmingham since 1963. But city councilman Jay Robertson says today's re-enactment of the children's crusade is necessary for different reasons. "The dynamics of what the young people deal with today are a lot different. It accessible to get involved with drugs. It's accessible to get involved with gangs and violence," he said.

Hicks says she sees the problems first-hand. But just as thousands of children demanded change in 1963, these students are demanding change in their communities today.. Among them, some of the original marchers from 1963. Gloria Washington Randall was fifteen when she marched. The re-enactment gives her hope for today's youth.

"It makes you realize that maybe there's still hope for this generation to stop the killing and the violence," she said.

Before marching today, the students watched a 30 minute video that documented those days back in 1963. They say the pictures and interviews in that documentary helped paint a better picture.