Every February we celebrate Black History Month—a time to reflect, celebrate and honor the achievements of African Americans. What was originally “Negro History Week,” turned into a month-long celebration of Black history because DUH! Black is beautiful, courageous, inspiring and so many other adjectives that I don’t have room to list. Before I start bragging about my heritage, here’s how you can observe the month in Birmingham and around Alabama.
Take a trip to Birmingham’s Civil Rights District
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Each February, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) educates and celebrates the history of the civil rights movement. As I’m sure you know, Birmingham played an important role in the fight for equal rights.
This year, BCRI is hosting free education programs to K-12 students, including:
- Documentary films
- Role play
- Oral histories
The civil rights movement is extremely complex and, in order to make the future better, we must first remember our past.
- Location: 520 16th St N, Birmingham, AL 35203
- Plan your visit + buy your ticket(s)
Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
After visiting the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, stroll across the street to a pivotal landmark during the civil rights movement—the 16th Street Baptist Church.
In 1963, the church was bombed by Ku Klux Klan members and four young African American girls were killed. The bombing shocked America and even spurred the federal government to take action on civil rights legislation.
Today, the 16th Street Baptist Church is still an active church. Although tours are cancelled due to COVID, it’s worth visiting this piece of history.
- Location: 1530 6th Ave N, Birmingham, AL 35203
Kelly Ingram Park
Located within the same block of BCRI and 16th Street Baptist Church is Kelly Ingram Park, an important staging ground for demonstrations during the civil rights movement as well as recent protests in response to the killing of George Floyd.
Take a walk through the park and discover powerful, emotional sculptures that depict the realities of discrimination in the South as well as important figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- Location: 500 17th St N, Birmingham, AL 35203
Enjoy a film at Sidewalk
This year, Sidewalk Film Center + Cinema at The Pizitz is celebrating Black History Month with several screenings. They’re teaming up with Sundance Film Festival for exciting movies like:
- World Premiere of Judas and the Black Messiah on February 1
- Passing on January 30
- R#J on January 30
You can also catch the documentary MLK/FBI and Son of the South which has some local connections February 4-11.
- Location: 1821 2nd Ave N, Birmingham, AL 35203
Read-In For Justice at the Birmingham Public Library
The Birmingham Public Library (BPL) will be celebrating with their virtual program, Read-In for Justice: A Poetic Look at the Black Family. Created in response to the killing of George Floyd, this program amplifies the voices of storytellers as they read books written by people of color.
Take a day trip to historical Alabama landmarks
The events in Selma during the civil rights movement captured the attention of the entire world. One of the most pivotal events took place at Edmund Pettus Bridge, which you can still visit today.
Other landmarks to visit include:
- Brown Chapel AME Church
- Lowndes Interpretive Center
- National Voting Rights Museum and Institute
- Selma Interpretive Center
- Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail
Just like those who marched from Selma to Montgomery to fight for voting rights, you can follow the National Historic Trail from Selma to Montgomery. As the state’s capital, Montgomery is the backdrop to several historic landmarks and events, including the site of Rosa Parks’ arrest and what was once Dr. Martin Luther King’s home.
Other landmarks to visit include:
- Alabama State Capitol which was the site of Dr. King’s “How Long, Not Long” speech
- City of St. Jude which was the first in the Southeast to integrate
- Civil Rights Memorial Center
- Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist
- Freedom Rides Museum
- Rosa Parks Museum
Visit the home of the groundbreaking Tuskegee Airmen—the first African-American military aviators in the nation’s history. Not only were these men courageously flying into the face of danger in a foreign country, but they were also faced with racial injustice at home.
As a matter of fact, Disney made a film dedicated to their accomplishments and time during World War II called Red Tails which I would 10/10 reccomend.
Notable landmarks to visit include:
The city of Anniston was the site of a violent attack against the Freedom Riders who were travelling from Atlanta to Birmingham. The shocking event brought national attention to the South, but the Freedom Riders who were both black and white became symbols of courage and determination for the greater good.
A must see is Anniston’s Freedom Riders National Monument which is at the city’s former Greyhound station.