Find out how this cosmopolitan and welcoming destination shares its story by preserving and embracing its past.
Fueled with prosperity from the iron and steel industry at the turn of the 20th century, Birmingham’s performing arts venues thrived. By the 1960s, the city became the hub of the national Civil Rights movement. In this lively city at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains, explore landmarks to learn how the past forged the cultural diversity enjoyed by all today.
Significant Symbols in the Historic Civil Rights District
For a moving experience, visit the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, to learn how Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders charted a new direction for human rights. The four-block district includes the A.G. Gaston Motel, headquarters for their campaign, as well as other must-see destinations that convey the magnitude of the era:
- Birmingham Civil Rights Institute – At this affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, learn about the city’s role in the Civil Rights movement. Peruse exhibits in several galleries, and check calendars for a list of special events.
- 16th Street Baptist Church – The centerpiece of the community was a bombing target, where four black girls were killed in 1963. The church became a rallying site and continues to welcome visitors at its worship services and for tours at select times.
- Historic Bethel Baptist Church – Tour the former movement headquarters, now a National Historic Landmark, where the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth led nonviolent desegregation efforts.
- Kelly Ingram Park – Use your mobile phone to take a free audio tour and learn about the significance of the sculptures installed in this gathering spot in the heart of the Birmingham Civil Rights District. People once gathered at the park next to the 16th Street Baptist Church to bring attention to the movement.