Janice Kelsey Interviewed on March 31, 2008

BCRI Oral History Collection
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:00 - Introduction

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And you'll edit out the bad parts.

Segment Synopsis: Janice Kelsey begins her oral history interview at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where her biography including her work with the Children's Movement and Civil Rights demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama will be detailed.

Keywords: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Ala.); Memory

Subjects: Children's movement

GPS: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Map Coordinates: 33.516405, -86.814532
Hyperlink: BCRI Homepage
00:02:10 - Biographical Background

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I'm Janice Wesley Kelsey.

Segment Synopsis: Janice Kelsey introduces herself and discusses her childhood. She mentions her parents and their occupations, as well as, her community of Titusville and the Birmingham City School System.

Keywords: Birmingham (Ala.); Birth date; Parents; Titusville (Ala.)

Subjects: Childhood

00:03:03 - The Children's Crusade

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, then how did cute little Janice get involved in a children's movement?

Segment Synopsis: Janice Kelsey discusses how she became involved in the Civil Rights movement via her attendance of mass meetings where she heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Fred L. Shuttlesworth. Figures such as James L. Bevel and Andrew Young encouraged her and other students to engage in a nonviolent march beginning at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on May 2nd, 1963--a demonstration that would later be known as the Children's movement or the Children's Crusade.

Keywords: Demonstrations; Mass meetings; Nonviolence

Subjects: King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; Shuttlesworth, Fred L., 1922-2011; Sixteenth Street Baptist Church (Birmingham, Ala.)

00:10:41 - Arrest and Imprisonment

Play segment

Partial Transcript: We went first to . . . We had been told to all say we were the same age, so that we would go to the same place.

Segment Synopsis: Janice Kelsey remembers being arrested and taken to the county jail following the Children's Crusade march. There was not enough room at the jail, so they were placed in the Fair Park Arena. A news reporter asked her how she was doing there, and she replied, "I am as contented as a Carnation Cow" (a line that she had heard in a Carnation milk commercial). She was there from Thursday until Sunday, when her parents were allowed to pick her up. The Reverend Calvin Woods worked with the Birmingham Board of Education and courts to ensure that all students, including Kelsey, would be reinstated in school.

Keywords: Arrest; Carnation Milk Products Company; County Jail

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Board of Education; Woods, Calvin Wallace

00:14:44 - 16th Street Church Bombing

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Not a bit. Not a bit. I had no idea then that what we were doing would be historic in any way, or of any interest to anybody.

Segment Synopsis: Janice Kelsey retells her memories of the September 15th bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963, and how it made her realize the seriousness, as well as, the significance of the what they were fighting for in the Civil Rights Movement.

Subjects: 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, Birmingham, Ala., 1963

00:16:25 - Effects and Aftermath

Play segment

Partial Transcript: But can you just talk a little more about your family's feelings about what you were doing, and also teachers?

Segment Synopsis: Janice Kelsey recounts her parent's reactions and thoughts about her and her brother's arrests and releases from jail following their participation in the Children's Crusade. She remembers that they were proud. She also remembers her teacher's lenience in letting children leave class to be involved in marches and demonstrations.

Keywords: Arrest; Demonstrations; School

Subjects: Family; Reactions; Teachers

00:18:23 - The Role of Music

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Okay. You've spoken to so many of the important things already. The role of music, you've touched on that. Do you want to say more about . . .

Segment Synopsis: Janice Kelsey asserts the important role of music within the movement. She remembers Carlton Reese transforming traditional spirituals into new songs about freedom and unity that helped empower and excite all who heard them.

Subjects: Freedom; Reese, Carlton, 1942-2002; Spirituals (Songs)

00:19:49 - Becoming Involved with the Movement

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I loved your honesty up front about how you got to the first mass meeting you went to, to begin with.

Segment Synopsis: Janice Kelsey discusses her obliviousness to racial inequality, as she grew up in an African-American community. After the Children's Crusade, she became much more aware of the injustices surrounding her, as well as, the injustices her parents had endured.

Subjects: Demonstrations; Injustices

00:22:30 - Impact and Influence of the Movement

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, tell me again how old you were during the 63 event, and then how it impacted your life after.

Segment Synopsis: Janice Kelsey talks about how attending her first mass meeting impacted the rest of her life. It made her much more aware of the world outside of her community, which before integration, consisted only of lower and middle class African-Americans. She also discusses her feelings about her parents shielding her from events in the movement, and how she felt about those that were not involved. Kelsey then relates the first time that she realized the significance of her participation in the Children's Crusade when she was asked to speak to a high school class about her experiences.

Subjects: Demonstrations; Integration; Mass Meetings

00:30:15 - After the Movement

Play segment

Partial Transcript: That was the first time when Lilly May Fincher asked me to speak to her class.

Segment Synopsis: Kelsey summarizes her life after the movement, in which she graduated with degrees from Miles College and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She got married and had children, while at the same time, she began her teaching career. She was placed by the Birmingham Board of Education at various high schools. Upon visiting her old high school, she noticed many improvement from when she attended. Kelsey says this showed her the importance of what Dr. King, Rev, Shuttlesworth, and Rev. Woods endured to accomplish needed changes.

Keywords: Birmingham (Ala.). Board of Education; High School; Miles College; University of Alabama at Birmingham

Subjects: King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; Shuttlesworth, Fred L., 1922-2011; Woods, Calvin Wallace

00:35:10 - Additional Memories from the Movement

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, I want to give you an opportunity to put anything you want to say.

Segment Synopsis: Janice Kelsey recounts being pulled aside with other young people at a mass meeting by James Bevel. It was he that invited them to join the movement. She also remembers her mother protesting adverse reactions to a segregation attempt at Woodlawn High School, where she worked in the cafeteria. She notes that her brother later became Woodlawn's first African-American principal. Kelsey then talks about the police and guards' behavior during her arrest and imprisonment, before mentioning that some 2000 children were arrested the first day of the Children's Crusade.

Keywords: Demonstrations; Jail; Mass Meetings

Subjects: Bevel, James L. (James Luther), 1936-2008; Children's Crusade

00:45:44 - Trying to Get Mugshot

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Did you ever try to get your mugshot?

Segment Synopsis: Janice Kelsey relates the challenge of trying to obtain the mugshot from her arrest over her participation in the Children's Crusade.

Subjects: Arrest; Mugshot

00:47:37 - Family and Legacy

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Sometimes I think I make my husband uncomfortable when we go to restaurants because I see I can be seated before another party, and sometimes they will want to serve the other party before serving me.

Segment Synopsis: Janice Kelsey admits that she can still see subtle hints of racism today, even after the 1960's fight for equal rights. She remembers encouraging her children to rise above it, and proudly says that they turned out well. She also discusses her mother's community activism, and that if she had not had nine children and numerous responsibilities, she believes her mother would have participated in the movement as well.

Subjects: Community Activism; Equal Rights; Racism