Birmingham Adventures Part 2: Birmingham Civil Rights Museum and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I headed east into Birmingham proper from the vintage motorsports museum to the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.  Not just one statue or building, this monument encompasses about four downtown Birmingham city blocks.  Multiple landmarks associated with the American Civil Rights movement are located within this area, including the A.G. Gaston Motel which served as the headquarters for the Birmingham Campaign of 1963.  Unfortunately, the hotel is closed for renovations, but I was able to visit several other important sites.

“Kelly Ingram Park (historically know as West Park), was an assembly point for participants in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)’s Project “C” (for Confrontation), which included sit-ins, boycotts, marches, and jailings designed to end segregation in Birmingham.” “During the first week of May 1963, Birmingham police and firemen attacked civil rights demonstrators, many of whom were children, in the streets bordering this park. The violence raised a nationwide public outcry, hastening integration in America’s most segregated city.” -NPS website
“The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, is a cultural and educational research center that promotes a comprehensive understanding for the significance of civil rights developments in Birmingham.” -Birmingham Civil Rights Institute website
These life-size replicas in the Procession Exhibit seek to depict the universality of the human condition and interconnectedness of us all.
One of the most unique exhibits was the “Shout it Out” playlist sound booth. There are seats so you can sit and listen to global music influenced by the American Civil Rights movement and protests while reading about the different artists and meaning behind each song.
Right across the street from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Kelly Ingram Park is the 16th Street Baptist Church. This church was the “target of the September 1963 bombing that killed four young girls who were preparing for Sunday school. This act of domestic terrorism became a galvanizing force for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” -NPS website
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., along with hundreds of protesters were arrested in April of 1963, for protesting segregation. At the time, his protests were criticized as untimely and instigated by outsiders. Dr. King wrote this letter in response to their criticisms while sitting in a Birmingham jail cell. The full text version is quite long, but an important read, particularly on this day honoring him. You can read the full text version HERE.

I didn’t plan on this post appearing on the same day designated to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but it is a fitting post for it nonetheless.   Though he believed in non-violence, I’ve been learning that he was far from the watered-down version of selective quotes typically posted on this day.  If you’re like me and crave context to make sense of events, then I hope that you will read the full text version of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”   

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