The worst thing a man can do is nothing. – James Armstrong
James Armstrong served many civil rights leaders during his time. He was known to many as “The Barber of Birmingham.” His most notable clients included Dr. King and Rev. Shuttlesworth.
Armstrong was an Army veteran who had the responsibility of being a flag bearer during the war. He proudly hung the American flag he carried on Bloody Sunday in his downtown barbershop. He never let go of the flag during the march, even when he was being beaten and tear-gassed by police.
People would visit Armstrong’s downtown Birmingham barbershop to talk politics and find out what was happening throughout the community. The barbershop also served as a central location for voter rights education. Because of his connection to progress when white resistance was high, church members often provided security for Armstrong and his family.
Armstrong is mostly known for a lawsuit that he filed in August of 1957 that led to the desegregation of Graymont Elementary in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. His lawsuit resulted in his sons Dwight and Floyd becoming the first black children to attend that school. Their first day at the school was September 9, 1963.
In his later years, Armstrong served as a board member and volunteer at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Every Sunday following the opening of the Institute, he told his story to visitors so they would understand his passion and commitment to a lifelong goal of justice.
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