Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the hero of many a young girl in America. But do you know who Condoleezza Rice’s heroes are?
Condoleezza Rice grew up in Birmingham, Ala. before the civil rights movement -- at a time when the town was rightly called "the most thoroughly segregated city in the country." She was surrounded by violence from hate-filled people including the Ku Klux Klan and racial segregation as the result of Jim Crow laws.
Condi had a front-row seat in the midst of the civil rights movement when historic events occurred almost daily. Condi was in Birmingham when Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous letter from the Birmingham jail. She was there the day of the famous Children’s March. She was there as small girl as others died nearby in multiple bombings. In fact, Birmingham’s nickname became "Bombingham" because in just 1963 alone, 40 bombs went off in the city.
As a child of eight, she lost a neighborhood friend, Denise McNair, in a Sunday-morning church bombing. McNair died along with three other young ladies. Having experienced "homegrown terrorism," as Condi calls it, the violence left a lasting impact on her and she still vividly recalls hearing the bomb explode a few blocks away at her own church, describing the blast as "a sound that will forever reverberate in my ears."
"I know what it means to hold dreams and aspirations when half your neighbors think you are incapable of, or uninterested in, anything better," says Condi. Until she was nine years old, the only non-segregated restaurant that she had ever eaten at was on a trip to Washington, D.C. with her parents. Legal punishments could be imposed on people for consorting with members of another race. Frequently, the laws forced public institutions and business owners to keep blacks and whites separated. Signs reading "Whites Only" or "Colored" were posted, restricting non-whites from access to restaurants, restrooms, water fountains and waiting rooms. There were also separate hospitals, schools and other public areas. Countless courageous people, some known and others unknown, have played a part in the struggle to bring equality to all citizens of America. With President Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act into law in 1964, segregation became outlawed and a whole new world was opened to Condi and other African Americans.
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