During the 1940s and 1950s, black neighborhoods in Birmingham were targeted by several racially motivated bombing attacks. It was reported there was as many as fifty attacks between 1947 and 1963, earning Birmingham the nickname “Bombingham.” Sterne felt she and those in her organizations had to do something to stop these attacks and raise awareness to the lack of action by the police department. Sterne and other Birmingham Jewish women felt intense shame about the local racism and the terrorist attacks targeting innocent citizens of black communities in their hometown. Local law enforcement seemed unwilling to solve these crimes causing great frustration and anger from Sterne and other reformers like her. The Council of Jewish Women made their opinions heard through a published statement made by their members stating their shock and shame of the bombing on the home of an African American dentist. They publicly urged the police department of Birmingham to find the perpetrators and stop this absurd behavior and continued terror when many were afraid to speak out.
Sterne also fought against segregation in Birmingham schools and set out to revive the League of Women Voters, or LWV, to help in the process. She fundraised and increased membership in the LWV to increase activity and civic engagement in the community to fight for these causes. Sterne held many forums at Birmingham-Southern College to publicly discuss the decision to desegregate schools. She found many students and parents were supportive of desegregation and integration though local educators often did not. Even in the face of the Jefferson County superintendent’s blatant racism and refusal to allow integration, she persisted and continued to advocate for it.
Dorah Sterne proved to be a trailblazer who did her best to improve Birmingham. She joined her temple, and had clubs and organizations dedicated to the morals and values she held close to her heart. Her activity in the Birmingham area raised awareness to the deep local racism, the inequality in schools, issues within prisons, and more. She worked tirelessly to improve life for the less fortunate, urged local law enforcement to protect the people equally, and rallied for desegregation in schools. Dorah Sterne deserves to be remembered for her role as an early activist and reformer who influenced the next generation of women activists in Birmingham, Alabama.
Theo Smith is a Junior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is working on a BS in Secondary Education and a BA in History. He enjoys learning about the past and analyzing the patterns in civilizations over the course of human history. When he is not knee-deep in historical stories, he enjoys creative writing, oil painting, and cuddling with his cats