This final blog post from my trip to Mississippi and Alabama about how to spend a day in Birmingham, Alabama has been sitting in the “draft” section on my website for a while now. I have been struggling to come up with a way to start it. And then today, it came to me via a video that has gone viral.
Have you seen the video of Texas Democratic nominee Beto O’Rourke responding to a question about kneeling during the anthem at a town hall he was having in Texas? If you haven’t, you should check it out. A section of his response pretty much sums up a large portion of this trip for me.
In his response, he mentioned “Parting the Waters, America in the King Years 1954-63” a book written by Taylor Branch (that I now have on hold at the library). Taylor Branch is an author best known for his trilogy of books chronicling the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and much of the history of the American Civil Rights. After mentioning the book, Mr. O’Rourke lists other events that took place during the Civil Rights Movement, including…
- Martin Luther King, Jr. and the work he did in Alabama. I visited Montgomery and the church where MLK, Jr. was a pastor during this trip.
- John Lewis and the men and women who were beaten as they marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. I walked across this bridge.
- The four little girls killed at the 16th Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham. I stood outside this church and pondered how anyone can be as evil as the klansmen who committed this crime.
I have been fortunate to visit many different places over the years that are ripe in U.S. history, including Boston and Philadelphia among others. Visiting these places is a great way to learn about the “good” part of U.S. history – the Revolutionary War, the Freedom Trail, the Boston Tea Party…the list goes on.
The trip to Mississippi and particularly, Alabama, was a chance for me to learn about a “dark” period in U.S. history. There were so many things I didn’t know or forgot. This trip affected me more than any trip has in recent memory and I am so thankful I had the chance to go.
A Day in Birmingham, Alabama
If you made it this far and are still with me, thanks for hearing me out and reading on. Below are some photos from my time in Birmingham. I enjoyed my time there. It’s a small city that is worth a visit if you have a the chance. You will probably learn a thing or two while you are there too.
But First, Food
16th Avenue Baptist Church
The photo above is of the 16th Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham. This church was where four little girls were killed on September 15, 1963 when four members of the Ku Klux Klan planted dynamite attached to a timing device beneath the steps on the east side of the church. The explosion also injured 22 others. Even though the FBI concluded that the bombing had been committed by four known KKK members, no prosecutions ensued until 1977 when one of the klansmen was tried and convicted of murder for one of the victims. Two other klansmen were convicted and sentenced to life in prison related to the attacked in 2001 and 2002 – ALMOST 40 YEARS LATER!!! The fourth klanman died in 1994 and was never charged for his alleged involvement in the attack.
The four girls killed in the attack were Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair. The sculpture below is in Kelly Ingram Park across the street from the church and honors these four girls.
The 16th Avenue Baptist Church bombing marked a turning point in the U.S. during the civil rights movement and contributed to support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The photo directly above was taken in Vulcan Park in Birmingham. I was researching the park to tell you more about it and found this description from Lonely Planet – “Imagine Christ the Redeemer in Rio, but made of iron and depicting a beefcake Roman god of metalworking.”
Haha! This totally made me chuckle…because it is basically true! This “beefcake” overlooks the city of Birmingham He is made of 100,000 pounds of iron and is 56 feet tall. The Vulcan stands at the top of Red Mountain and is visible from all over Birmingham. He is the world’s largest cast-iron statue. Vulcan Park, where he resides, offers fantastic views of the city. The park also includes a small on-site museum that explores Birmingham history.
And with some last views of the city, my time in Mississippi and Alabama and a day in Birmingham, Alabama came to an end. Thank you for your southern hospitality. I hope to visit again sometime.
Read about my time in Montgomery and Selma, Alabama here.