Destination Alabama: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT)– A trip to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will inspire you!

The institute is one of the jewels of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument; a national park encompassing 16th Street and 6th Avenue N in downtown Birmingham. The location is one of the most significant geographic corners in the fight for Civil Rights.

On one corner is Kelly Ingram Park, the scene where dogs and water hoses were unleashed on protesters who demanded equality.

Across the street is the historic 16th Street Baptist Church known the world over as the place where four girls were killed when a bomb planted by the Ku Klux Klan went off in September 1963. Their deaths would galvanize the nation, propelling action and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The other corner is where the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute stands. Although the museum is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they currently have two virtual resources on their website. Those include K-12 Learning Guides for Students and an Oral History Project.

“Outside of the adjustment with the pandemic, we see over 140,000 people a year,” Birmingham Civil Rights Historian Barry McNealy said.

He looks forward to the day when they can welcome visitors back inside to see the exhibits.

“You can easily spend two to three hours immersed in these galleries. One of the things about the permanent exhibition is it has a way of taking you back in time and time stands still while you are walking through the segregated United States of America,” McNealy said.

Visitors can learn first hand about the barriers of “Jim Crow America,” which fostered a separate often unequal society for Black Americans. The interactive multi-media exhibits offer something for all ages.

“When you come to the institute and you walk through the galleries you can see the transformative nature of these exhibits. What people were actually able to do, taking the world that they lived in and changing it for the better to the world that we live in today,” McNealy said.


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