Dynamite Hill

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"Dynamite Hill" was the nickname of a district of Smithfield, primarily on Center Street, where a series of bombings were perpetrated to intimidate African Americans moving into the community and white residents willing to sell to black families.

The violence flared after Arthur Shores filed a successful lawsuit overturning Birmingham's segregated zoning ordinances in 1950. He was representing a black client who had built a house on the "white side" of the street, but was denied a certificate of occupancy. Once a federal judge ruled the zoning unconstitutional, he was granted the certificate, but the home was destroyed by dynamite.

The unrest provoked an exodus of white families from Center Street, and, as they moved out, the only willing buyers were African Americans. The bombings continued until a group of African Americans was able to hire a white infiltrator who attended Ku Klux Klan meetings and informed residents of planned attacks. Armed men would then lie in wait and fire shots at Klansmen when they arrived. The bombings slowed considerably until the dramatic Birmingham Campaign and imminent prospect of school desegregation touched off another wave of violence, aimed at Civil Rights leaders and sympathizers.

Contemporary mural on the side of a building at Dynamite Hill
Contemporary mural on the side of a building at Dynamite Hill

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