Now, more than ever, is a time to educate ourselves on the history of black Americans, their achievements, setbacks and impact on the city of Birmingham and the country. Whether you are brushing up on things you’ve already learned, or wanting to educate a new generation, here are some places in Birmingham that will help lead the way.
Due to COVID-19, be sure to contact each location for open dates and times.
Civil Rights Institute
To educate yourself on the Civil Rights Movement, there’s no better place to start than The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Here you’ll discover an interpretive museum that traces the journey of the civil rights advocates of the 1950s and 60s who changed the course of American history.
Along with the chance to view permanent exhibits, the BCRI also spotlights traveling exhibits on the Freedom Riders, Selma-to-Montgomery marches and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.
You can even examine a replica of a Freedom Riders bus and go behind the actual jail cell door where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
The Institute’s research center is also home to an expansive archive of documents from the movement and nearly 500 recorded oral histories relevant to the period.
Civil Rights National Monument
Established in 2017, the Civil Rights National Monument is an important site in the journey for civil rights in Birmingham.
Encompassing four city blocks in downtown Birmingham, it includes the A.G. Gaston Motel, which served as the headquarters for The Birmingham Campaign and housed prominent leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
There are several historical landmarks within walking distance of the monument, too. Some include:
Southern Museum of Flight
There’s no doubt you’ve heard of the Tuskegee Airmen. But simply reading a history textbook isn’t nearly as impressive as witnessing memorabilia like their WWII-era trainer planes in person. And that’s exactly what you will find at the Southern Museum of Flight’s Tuskegee Airmen exhibit.
The exhibit pays tribute to this extraordinary group of African-American and Caribbean-born military pilots who fought in WWII, forming the 32nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces.
Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame
Did you know that Alabama produced some of the country’s most notable black jazz musicians? It’s true! What’s especially cool is that the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame is located in our very own city of Birmingham—and it’s truly worth a visit.
Not only does it offer educational and artistic programming, it also features a museum filled with 40 years worth of archives and artifacts. Example: a dress, instruments and memorabilia from “The First Lady of Song,” Ella Fitzgerald.
Birmingham loves the performing arts, and one spot in particular has aa truly interesting history—the Carver Performing Arts Theatre.
The theatre originally opened in 1935 as a movie house and was one of the first few screening spots to run films for blacks during the days of segregation.
Though the theatre closed in 1980 when Birmingham’s City Center was abandoned, it was reinvented and reopened in 1993.
Today, the theatre is again under construction, so stay tuned to see what’s in store for the future of this well-known history spot.
Address: 1631 4th Ave N, Birmingham, AL 35203
Negro Southern League Museum
If you recognize names like Willie Mays and Leroy “Satchel” Paige, you know these are former black baseball players who made it to the major leagues in Birmingham.
Created in 1920 by a group of black businessmen and baseball enthusiasts, the Negro Southern League served as a feeder fort for many talented black baseball players to go on to the Negro American League and Negro National League.
You can learn all about it at the Negro Southern League Museum—a history museum and research center that contains the largest collection of original Negro League Baseball artifacts in the country.
Vulcan Park and Museum
Vulcan Park and Museum features many historical exhibits, programs and events throughout the year involving black history. Stay tuned to social media for what’s taking place.
Are there more places in Birmingham that provide education on black history? Let us know on our social channels @bhamnow.
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