LaGrange High School’s Black History program commemorates the upcoming 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, while also marking the 50 years since the Birmingham bombing that partially spurred it.
“Birmingham 1963: A Child’s Story” is an original play created by assistant principal Kenneth Redding that focuses on the Children’s Crusade of May 1963. The crusade was an event organized by Southern Christian Leadership Conference that directed youth to protest in Birmingham, Ala., for racial equality, a controversial move that saw students hit with high-pressure water hoses and attacked by dogs from police.
The play focuses on one family living through the events in 1963, as one daughter joins the crusade and begins to fight the highly segregated status quo. After she is taken to jail and loses a friend to the Birmingham bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church on Sept. 15, 1963, it follows her through the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
The play is about “the impact of those events and how they sparked the passage of the Civil Rights Bill, and how they led up to change in the South,” Redding said. “We’re focusing on one family and the daughter who wanted to be a part of the movement.”
The play tells the story while interspersed with music from the 1950s and ’60s, along with some original songs by Redding. For existing songs, Redding also made sure to only choose music that was made before 1963 to remain authentic.
The boys’ and girls’ step teams, Black History choir and dance team, and members of the band will perform during the play. There are about 60 students involved in the production.
Redding said he hopes the play will convey to attendees what children have the power to do. He said there is often many negative stories in the news about youth and criticism of youth culture, but the play shows how a group of children were able to influence major change in the nation.
“I like the fact that there was a time when children could come together,” Redding said. “… One school locked it’s gates (to prevent students from leaving and participating in the marches) but that couldn’t stop them.”
Redding said the play also shows the implications involved by the SCLC’s controversial move of using children for the marches, and how it affected those involved.
“It shows the struggle there – were they right or not?” Redding said.
The group has been rehearsing for the program since October. Although Redding said the snow days in the last few weeks “really played havoc with us,” he added that the group will be ready for opening night.
“Birmingham 1963: A Child’s Story” performs Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. in the LaGrange High School auditorium. Tickets for Friday and Saturday are $7 in advance and can be purchased at LaGrange High School from Redding, or are $10 at the door. All tickets for the Sunday matinee performance are $7.