Visiting Birmingham

To continue the posts about our family vacation August 1-7th, 2009…..

On Tuesday of that week, we decided to take the kids over to Birmingham.  Birmingham is only about an hour away from Talladega, so it’s a perfect day trip.

Leaving at about 9 in the morning, we headed over to the Civil Rights Institute.   The purpose for our visit was to see this museum and to see the 16th Street Avenue church where the bombing took place in 1963 and killed 4 young girls – Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, & Cynthia Wesley.  Many others were injured that day, and within a few hours of the bombing, two young boys were also killed during the riots.

Both the Institute & the 16th Street Church are situated on the edges of Kelly Ingram Park.  Throughout 1963, the park was the locale of organized civil rights protests & boycotts  by Rev. Martin Luther King and Fred Shuttlesworth. After touring the Institute & the Church, we then toured the park, so I’ll come back to that.

The Civil Rights Institute

The Civil Rights Institute was extremely nice and very well put-together.  It has been around since 1992.  When you begin the tour, they show a short movie and then the movie screen lifts up and you are able to enter the museum.  As we went through the exhibits, I learned quite a bit about the history of the civil rights activities in the city and we made sure the kids all understood the significance as well.  I think my favorite part of the exhibit was the near the beginning where they have setups of what a typical black classroom would have looked like compared to what a typical white classroom looked like.  Very striking.

After the main exhibits, we also toured another exhibit they have called Freedom’s Sisters.  This exhibit covers information on 20 women involved in civil rights activities. There were a couple of hands-on activities that I thought created a nice touch — namely, they had one page sheets for each woman that you would collect and put into a folder to create your own “book.”  Then, they had a photo kiosk where you could take a picture and create your own profile sheet to add to your book. Very nice touch. Afterwards, the kids took the requisite group pic.

16th Street Church
Across the street from the Civil Rights Institute is the 16th Street Church, the location of the bombing in 1963 that killed the four girls mentioned above.  We were able to walk around the church and there was a guide that provided some details and history of what happened there.  The room that the girls were in was a dressing room of sorts back then, and it is now a kitchen.  Other than a marker outside the church where the bomb was located, there did not seem to be any internal indications of what transpired there.  The church converted the space into a kitchen and still uses it today.  Group pic of the kids in front of that area:

and, outside the church

Kelly Ingram Park
As we left the church, we then next explored Kelly Ingram Park which is just outside both locations.  The park had several statues/reliefs set up to help capture the events of a significant protest that occured there involving mostly children.  I was particularly struck by this one that was done in two parts to represent children being  jailed.  The words along the bottom that you can’t see in this angle say “I ain’t afraid of your jail.”

After touring around the park, we then left and headed back to Talladega.  When we got back, we let the kids swim for awhile in the hotel pool and then we went on another home excursion. More details to come soon over on the genealogy blog!

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