In honor of Black History Month, we’re reflecting on the legacy of the civil rights movement in our hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. With our HQ in the heart of downtown, we’re mindful of being steps from the sites of tragedies and triumphs that defined the American civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s.
These historic happenings commemorate those who changed history. Here’s a timeline of key events in Birmingham that initiated social change – and motivate us to keep pushing for change:
May 17, 1961: Black and white activists, known as Freedom Riders, took bus trips through the South to challenge segregation in bus terminals, lunch counters, and restrooms. On this day, a group, including future Congressman John Lewis, was taken into custody.
April 1963: Activists, including Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rev. James Bevel, launched The Birmingham Campaign. This series of peaceful demonstrations, from lunch counter sit-ins and marches to boycotts, protested segregation laws in the city.
September 15, 1963: Before Sunday morning service, 2 Ku Klux Klan members planted dynamite outside the 16th Street Baptist Church, killing 4 young Black girls. As a result of the public outrage, there was more pressure for Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
1992: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute opened its doors. This modern museum features a rendition of a segregated city in the 1950s, a replica of a Freedom Riders bus, and even the door to the jail cell that held Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
1992: Kelly Ingram Park, which served as the epicenter for activities of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other groups in the movement, was commemorated alongside the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Today, the public park features emotionally powerful sculptures depicting the struggle.
To continue learning about destinations important to the civil rights movement in Birmingham and across the South, visit the Civil Rights Trail for a virtual tour.
For more ways to honor Black History Month, check out the blog all month long.