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When you think of the civil rights movement, names like Martin Luther King, Jr., the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and events like Bloody Sunday come to mind. But for years, only the community of Birmingham knew the name James Armstrong. Called “The Barber of Birmingham,” Armstrong was the local barber whose clients included Reverend King and Reverend Shuttlesworth.

A neighborhood man and Army veteran who’s responsibility was flag bearer during the war, Armstrong proudly hung the American flag that he carried on Bloody Sunday in his downtown barbershop. He never let go of the flag during the march, even when being beaten and tear-gassed by police and watching those around him fall to the ground.

Armstrong was jailed alongside his leaders of the struggle and later took the racial struggle to the courtroom, claiming a 1963 victory for the desegregation of Graymont Elementary in Birmingham. His sons, Dwight and Floyd Armstrong, would become the school’s first black students.


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