Thursday, April 21, 2016

Birmingham II (out of sequence)

Tuesday we spent, once more, in Birmingham, but this time our visit was more focused, on the Civil Rights struggle and this took us to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute where we began with one of three civil rights walks, that tracing the route of marchers to the downtown business district in 1963. After that we visited Kelly Ingram Park, one of the sites from where the marches and protests were staged and where today there is an incredibly moving statue that memorializes the four children who were killed at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, just across the street, on September 15, 1963.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the third of our Civil Rights museums

Three walking tours commemorate the struggle. The first station

The final station of the "retail" march downtown
The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church

An incredibly moving piece of sculpture or the four children killed. They must be named as they are on the bench and in our hearts forever: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair

Can't read the plaque because of the sun and shadow, but this is where the conspirators planted the bomb, designed to blow up the Sunday school. As outrageous as the act itself is the fact that the Klansmen were not all punished until 2002 and one more may never be brought to justice.

From there we went into the Institute and experienced another superb museum, one that gave us a better understanding of not just the movement and the struggle but of this still-troubled city.

And that may be enough to say, except that both of us found our visit to Birmingham unsettling.

The city begun in 1873 as an avatar of the “New South” ended up as the most segregated city in America by the 1950s and today seems a shell. I say this not to offend anyone but with a sense of regret. In many ways Birmingham reflects the failure of American to realize Dr. King’s Dream.

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