An afternoon at a lunch counter. A thousand arms linked at the elbows. A firing line of water hoses. A pack of German Shepherds. A letter from a Birmingham jail. A devastating explosion. A world that would never be the same.
The year was 1963, and as the world watched, events in Birmingham sparked an unstoppable surge toward equal rights for people of all races. As Birmingham enters 2013, the city will mark the 50th anniversary of pivotal events of 1963 in America’s Civil Rights Movement.
Birmingham’s historic Civil Rights District was ground zero for the 1963 campaign. With the opening of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in 1992, the city found a place to tell its story. Richly detailed exhibits in the institute reveal slices of black and white life in Alabama from the late 1800s to the present.
One of the most compelling sites in the Civil Rights District is Kelly Ingram Park. The park served as a gathering place for demonstrations in the early 1960s, including ones in which police dogs and fire hoses were turned on marchers, many of them children.
Across from the park is Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham’s most famous civil rights landmark. On a bright September morning in 1963, a dynamite bomb set by Ku Klux Klansmen exploded at the church, killing four little girls as they prepared for morning worship.
Special exhibitions and events are planned to commemorate the year of 1963.
A Sample of Special Events for the 2013 Commemoration:
• December 2012 – February 2013 - Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
“Black from the Heart of Dixie” honors some of the most influential African-Americans to come out of Alabama.
• January 13 – April 7, 2013 – Birmingham Museum of Art
“Face Jugs: Art and Ritual in 19th Century South Carolina” is an exhibit of formative African American vessels that represent the difficulties of being a slave on a Southern plantation.
• February 2013 – New Gallery of African Ceramics Opens at Birmingham Museum of Art
The works come from West, Central and Southern Africa and were created for utilitarian and ritual use.
• March – November, 2013 – Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
“Marching On: The Children’s Movement at Fifty” tells the story of the Children’s Crusade through the people who participated in 1963.
• March 12-14, 2013 – National Association for the Study and Performance of African-American music. More than 4,000 musicians are expected for the conference.
• April – June, 2013 – Location TBA
Academy award nominated documentary showing of “The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement.”
• April 11-14, 2013 - Red Mountain Theatre Company
A one-act play in honor of the 50th year of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” written during his 1963 incarceration.
• April 5 – September 29, 2013 - Vulcan Park and Museum
“A Place of Our Own: The Fourth Avenue District, Civil Rights and the Rise of Birmingham’s Black Middle Class” - The exhibition illustrates how the historic black business district propelled the success of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham.