Student Civil Rights Protesters From The 1960s Discuss 'March For Our Lives' As high school students prepare to come to Washington, D.C. for the "March For Our Lives," several former student civil rights marchers discuss their experiences and view of today's student movement.

Student Civil Rights Protesters From The 1960s Discuss 'March For Our Lives'

Student Civil Rights Protesters From The 1960s Discuss 'March For Our Lives'

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In 1963, policemen in Birmingham, Ala., arrested black school children who were protesting racial discrimination. Bill Hudson/AP hide caption

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Bill Hudson/AP

In 1963, policemen in Birmingham, Ala., arrested black school children who were protesting racial discrimination.

Bill Hudson/AP

In 1963, high school students in Birmingham, Ala. marched in protest of segregation. Hundreds were arrested, sprayed by hoses and attacked by dogs. As high school students get ready to come to Washington, D.C. for the "March For Our Lives," several of those 1963 marchers weigh in on their experiences and view of today's student movement.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Tomorrow students will gather here in Washington, D.C., for the March For Our Lives. They join a long history of students who sought to capture the nation's attention on an issue by showing up in force.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In May of 1963, the issue for students in Birmingham, Ala., was civil rights, equal treatment under the law and desegregation. The students were organized and nonviolent. In response, police used water cannons and attack dogs on them. Hundreds were arrested. News images from that day got the attention of the Kennedy White House, nudging it toward support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

CHANG: We reached three of the people who were students in Birmingham back in 1963.

GWENDOLYN SANDERS GAMBLE: My name is Gwendolyn Sanders (ph) Gamble. I am 70 years old.

JANICE NIXON: My name is Janice Nixon, and I am 62 years of age.

CHARLES AVERY: Charles Avery. I am 70 - I'll be 73 years old April the 9th.

CHANG: As students prepare to gather tomorrow in Washington for gun control, we asked these three about their memories of being student activists that spring decades ago.

GAMBLE: That morning when I woke up, you know, I didn't know what to expect. But once I got there, I saw people that I had never seen before out marching. And I'm talking about people of all races.

NIXON: I was 8 years old, but I was very involved in the civil rights movement because of my family. We would leave out with our signs, and we would march two by two.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AVERY: Up there and at the front, I was able to look back and could not believe the students in line. The whole school turned out. The little kids even got out. We were amazed.

GAMBLE: You know, you can get tired. You can get discouraged. But when you think about your freedom songs and the various messages that you heard, then that motivates you, and it gives you strength to keep going.

AVERY: Oh, let's see a good one. (Singing) We shall overcome. We shall overcome.

GAMBLE: There were times when I was really, really frightened because I didn't know what was going to happen next.

NIXON: I saw people with their police dogs being attacked.

GAMBLE: In my mind, the impact of the water hoses are still there. My memory is how painful it was and how frightening it was.

NIXON: A lot of kids were jailed. They were put in jail, and they were piled one on top of the other.

AVERY: I was in the paddy wagon, as we called it. Now it's called the police wagon. But we were later that night put into cells. There were over 1,500 in that cell block with no running toilets. So you can only imagine.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GAMBLE: It made me grow up. I think about it practically every day of my life.

NIXON: You know, it was a way of me learning devotion and dedication. It made me feel like this is done for a purpose. And I want to be remembered as being a part of that purpose. And I want that to influence somebody else's life.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AVERY: Can you imagine? Here we are in 2018, and we're still reliving some of this stuff.

GAMBLE: What they're fighting for today is different from what we fought for. We fought for equal justice. Today they're fighting for - just to live.

NIXON: You know, they always say that kids of today are the future of tomorrow. But I feel like they are just as important right now because they're doing things to make sure that they do have a future.

AVERY: Oh, I'm bubbling for the kids. I just hope it's a success for them.

GAMBLE: Children, go ahead. Do your thing. But just stay focused.

AVERY: It's no longer about black and white. It's no longer about Republican or Democrat. It's about democracy. The people can make a difference.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: That's Charles Avery along with Janice Nixon and Gwendolyn Sanders Gamble reflecting on the Birmingham Children's Crusade of 1963.

AVERY: (Singing) Ain't going to let nobody turn me 'round, turn me 'round, turn me 'round. Ain't going to let nobody turn me 'round. I'm going to keep on walking, keep on talking, marching up the king's highway.

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