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AUDREY FAYE HENDRICKS

Audrey was three years old on Christmas night 1956, when the home of Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, a local minister and family friend, was bombed by a group of segregationists. Fortunately he and his family were unharmed. Audrey knew that this attack against civil rights activists was far from unique. “There wasn’t a bombing that I wasn’t at,” she recalled.

Audrey’s parents were both active in the civil rights movement. And every Monday night from June 1956 to April 1963, Audrey attended mass meetings at her church with her family. “It was no way for me not to really be involved,” Audrey said. “My parents were involved from the point that I could remember…"

When the time came for the children’s march, Audrey wanted to join in. On Thursday morning, May 2, 1963, her parents took her to Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

She left the church with a group of students, all singing “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ’Round.” As her parents watched, she was arrested and taken to Juvenile Hall at City Jail. There, she was taken to a large dayroom. “I didn’t have any fresh underwear or a change of clothes or a toothbrush,” she said. She shared a bathroom with fifteen to twenty other girls. During the day, they were allowed outside in a concrete recreation area.

Audrey stayed in jail until Wednesday, May 8, when she was released with approximately five hundred other children. She returned to school the next day. No one asked her about her week in jail, and she didn’t say anything. “I was just one of the kids, as everybody else was,” she said. “It didn’t dawn on me that it was a big deal.”

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When she graduated from Center Street Elementary, Audrey volunteered to join the first class to integrate Ramsey High School. She attended college and held her first professional job in Dallas, Texas. After eight years there, she was drawn back to Birmingham, where she worked for more than twenty-five years with young children from low-income families. In 2007, she earned a master’s degree. Her thesis focused on women—like herself and her mother—who were active in the civil rights movement.

Audrey Faye Hendricks, known as the Civil Rights Queen, died in Birmingham in 2009.

Audrey Faye Hendricks | Washington Booker III | Arnetta Streeter | James Stewart