Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson headlines Birmingham’s 60th Anniversary Forging Justice Commemoration Week

Rev. Arthur Price with 16th Street Baptist Church announcing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson coming to Birmingham ((Pat Byington/Bham Now)

Surrounded by community partners, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin announced today the schedule of activities commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing that includes a special keynote by Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

That fateful day

“In the aftermath of that fateful day on September 15, 1963, our city and our nation had to take a hard look at itself and reckon with the devastating effects of hate and racism,” said Woodfin. “Today, in the spirit of the Four Little Girls, we work to be better and honor them by preserving our history and building a future worthy of their sacrifice.” 

From September 10-16, the city will host the 2023 Forging Justice Commemoration Week.  

Along with Justice Jackson’s visit, events slated throughout the week will encompass:

  • Nationally acclaimed thought leaders
  • Conference on healing
  • Art interpretations,
  • Film screening 
  • Visit by international dignitaries are coming together

Year long rememberance

16th Street Baptist Church
16th Street Baptist Church. (Sabrina Palmer / Bham Now)

 All year long, the city of Birmingham–along with area churches, arts organizations, businesses, and nonprofits–have commemorated the 1963 Birmingham civil and human rights movement.  

From hosting an international peace conference to a children’s march reenactment, creating a free poster series, and opening of the historic A.G. Gaston Motel, residents and visitors have joined to reflect and remember the challenges, lessons and triumphs of the historic year of 1963.

Below is the schedule of September commemoration events:  

  • Legacy Voices of the Movement Community Conversation: The Ballard House Project, Inc. presents a community conversation with esteemed educator, advocate, and mathematician Dr. Freeman Hrabowski and members of Birmingham civil rights families.. Sunday, Sept. 10 at 3 p.m. at The Ballard House, located at 1420 7th Ave. North. 
  • There IS A Balm In Gilead: Healing From The Events Of 1963: The Historic Bethel Baptist Church will host a conference on individual and community healing on September 12-14 at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel. Sessions will focus on healing from racial trauma, conflict resolution, and more. Keynote speakers include Dr. Tony Evans, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Dallas, TX; Kevin Lindsey Chief Executive Officer of the Minnesota Humanities Center; Elizabeth Silkes, President of the International Sites of Consciousness; Dr. Hassan Jefferies, author of Bloody Lowndes, and many other noted speakers, renown authors, physicians, and therapists. For details and to register, go to here
  • Dawoud Bey: The Birmingham Project: The Birmingham Museum of Art will present the highly acclaimed exhibition Dawoud Bey: The Birmingham Project. Opening its doors to the public on September 14, this poignant exhibition consists of a series of diptychs by renowned photographer Dawoud Bey that pays homage to the legacy of the tragic event while celebrating the resilience and strength of the Birmingham community. On Wednesday, Sept. 13, Dawoud Bey will serve as the speaker for the BMA’s annual Chenoweth lecture with distinguished scholar Dr. Imani Perry. The lecture is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception. Register at artsbma.org
  • Birmingham 1963-2023: Creating a Path to Reconciliation: On Thursday evening, September 14th, in remembrance of the events of 1963, the Ballard House Project, Inc., and its partners invite the Birmingham community to engage in critical, intergenerational dialogue with scholar, author, and nationally recognized thought leader Dr. Eddie Glaude. The event will also highlight messages from civil rights family members and inspirational music. The event is free and will take place at 16th Street Baptist Church, 1530 Sixth Ave. North. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; the event begins at 6 p.m. Register here.   

  • 4 Little Girls documentary screening. The Morgan Project will host a screening of the Spike Lee documentary 4 Little Girls on Thursday, Sept. 14 at the Sidewalk Film Center, and Cinema, located at 1821 2nd Ave. North. There will be a virtual introduction by Lee. The screening begins at 5 p.m. and at 7 p.m. there will be a conversation with survivors and the victims’ family. For details, go to sidewalkfest.org.

  • Watsons Go to Birmingham School Field Trip Day: Christopher Paul Curtis’ book The Watsons Go to Birmingham will be brought to life with hands-on, curriculum-based field trip for 4th-8th graders on Thursday, Sept. 14. The hands-on event will run from 9 a.m. until noon with an optional screening of Spike Lee’s 4 Little Girls for middle schoolers at the Lyric Theater at 1 p.m.

  • Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Commemorates Church Bombing: With the theme of “Looking 60 years forging Justice for a Better World, the historic Sixteenth Street Baptist Church will commemorate the 60th year anniversary of the church bombing on Friday, Sept. 15 at 9:30 a.m. The morning will feature a litany and reflection, music by the Carlton Reese Memorial and Miles College choirs and a special keynote by the first African American female U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Jackson. For more information, go to www.16thstreetbaptist.org. 

In addition

Chris McNair Exhibit at Birmingham City Hall. (Pat Byington/Bham Now)
  • Through His Eye: The Photography of Chris McNair: Launched today,  the City of Birmingham will highlight the work of the late photographer Chris McNair with an exhibition of images he captured during the movement, including one of his late daughter Denise who was killed in the church bombing. The exhibit is on the second floor of Birmingham City Hall, located at 710 20th Street North. Visitors can view the collection Mondays through Fridays, from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. until Saturday, Sept. 16. For details, go to www.birminghamal.gov/mcnairexhibit. 
  • Four Little Girls Play. As part of the Human Rights New Works Festival, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church joins Red Mountain Theatre for a reading of Christina Ham’s Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963. The one-act play brings joy, life, and music to the story of Denise, Carole, Cynthia, and Addie Mae, innocent children living in a divided country. Sunday, Sept. 24. at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Red Mountain Theatre Arts Campus. Tickets at redmountaintheatre.org.  

Birmingham stood up

During questions and answers during the press conference, Mayor Woodfin summed up why remembering what happened in Birmingham six decades ago matters.

“60 years ago when Birmingham stood up. Birmingham fought. Birmingham has a story to tell. We have to teach the present and the next generation that history. It cannot be forgotten. 60 years from now, we will still need to tell  and share what happened here in Birmingham and the impact it has had.” Updates regarding the 2023 Forging Justice Commemoration Week can be found at birminghamal.gov/forgingjustice.

Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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