history Travel — 11 September 2013
Protests and Bombings in Birmingham Tell Important Story from Civil Rights Era

By Sandra Long Weaver

The black and white clock, with hands forever frozen at 10:22, hangs in basement of the 16th Baptist Street Church in Birmingham among photos from the protests during 1963.

It is a reminder of that Sunday on Sept.15, 1963 when a bomb went off killing four little girls putting on their robes and getting ready for Sunday School.

Now 50 years later, the church plans to hold a vigil marking that horrible moment. Everything will stop. Members will gather around the plaque marking the place where the bomb went off. The same Sunday school lesson will be taught and the same sermon will be preached.

My husband and I visited Birmingham for the first time last week, to see the spots where the protesters were attacked by police.

In Kelly Ingram Park, across the street from the Church, are sculptures marking the brutality the protesters faced as well as praying pastors and a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. Protesters were marching for jobs, better pay and access to public restrooms and housing.

As we moved among the sculptures, I thought about how sad it all was but how wonderful that the story is being told. I still remember the film of people being attacked by dogs on the evening news.

And there was the day, bright-eyed children singing freedom songs, had water hoses turned on them as well as the attack dogs. Over 800 children were arrested for protesting.

Over 800 children were jailed for protesting in 1963.

Sandra Long Weaver  sits in front of sculpture commemorating the over 800 children were jailed for protesting in 1963.

You can use your mobile device to call a phone number at each sculpture and hear what happened 50 years ago. the free service allows you to follow the Freedom Path at your own pace.

I never thought I would visit Birmingham and see the place where it all happened 50 years ago. Kelly Ingram Park is beautiful, filled with flowers and a reflecting pool.

Kelly Ingram Park

A statue in Kelly Ingram Park marks the day Birmingham police used
dogs on protesters.

But the story doesn’t end with the park. Across the street is the Civil Rights Institute where interactive exhibits tell more about how people rose up to fight the

segregationist system under which they had been living for so long.

There is also an exhibit of an outfit worn by the Ku Klux Klan members. there are film clips, news clips, newspaper articles and even one of the tanks used by the Birmingham police against the black residents of the city.

We also visited the Bethel Baptist Church, which was pastored by Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. He was a leader in protest movement, holding organizing meetings at the church. He was beaten by a white mob when he tried to register his daughters for high school. A statue of Shuttlesworth, who died in 2011, stands outside the institute.

If you want to learn more about the Civil Rights movement,  a visit to Birmingham should be on your list of places to go. From Nashville, it is about a three-hour drive.

Featured Image Caption: A plaque outside 16th Street Baptist Church commemorates four young girls killed women the church was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan at 10:22 am on Sept. 15, 1963.

Photos By: Sandra Long Weaver

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