On Tuesday October 23, 2012, our host Aaron Perry interviewed authors Helen Shores Lee and Barbara Shores “The Gentle Giant of Dynamite Hill: The untold story of Shores and his family’s fight for civil rights.” The two sisters speak with Aaron Perry about their father, a civil right’s attorney, whom the book is about. The origins of the book began twenty years ago when Barbara began chronicling the memories from her childhood. Last year, Barbara and Helen decided to combine the social and legal aspects of the story into a book. Shores was a civil rights attorney who handled civil rights cases beginning in the late 1930s and 1940s, much before the civil rights movement began in 1963. He handled voting rights, filed suits to equalize the salaries of black and white teachers, and even defended a young black man for the rape of a white woman. He successfully fought a zoning regulation in Birmingham. The city regulation prohibited blacks from living west of a particular street in the city, and Shores filed a suit on behalf of several residents, the outcome of which allowed blacks to take residence in previously prohibited zones. Among the people who assisted Shores in his fight against civil rights were Thurgood Marshall and Constance Motley.
Barbara Shores explains her inspiration for the book, “what I was trying to do originally is give my children the opportunity to know a little bit more about their grandfather and the contributions he made to Alabama and the South…so that they could understand the triumphs and the struggles that he faced.” She explains that parents tended to protect their children from the movement events, “when everything was going on with regards to the movements, parents protected their children and just didn’t talk about those things.”
She stresses the importance of having the younger generation understand where they come from and African American history, and observes that, presently, the education system is not adequately providing children with this history. They stress “We set aside one month of out of the year when we celebrate Africa American history, and that passes by swiftly. We don’t teach it in the homes, they don’t teach it in the schools, so where else are children to learn it? Except in February? And even within the schoolbooks, not only do you not have information about African Americans, but also the Native Americans…It is more like one line or paragraph rather than the whole history.”
Listen to the interview here: