Visit Birmingham's Civil Rights Sites And Civil Rights Institute

    Walk the streets of Birmingham, Alabama and let your imagination roam to a time when soldiers of the American Revolution took determined steps toward a uncertain future. African Americans crossed the same path on their road to Civil Rights as we discovered in Birmingham, and at historic sites across Alabama.

    Among the most prominent civil rights landmarks in the city is the 16th Street Baptist Church; it was Birmingham’s Bethel Baptist Church that is credited with shaping the Civil Rights Movement here. Civil Rights legend, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, was pastor of Bethel Baptist from 1953 through 1961 when the church often served as a gathering place for civil rights discussions.

    In 1958, angry white supremacists bombed Bethel. While they may have hoped to frighten Rev. Shuttlesworth, it only strengthened his determination to bring Birmingham to the center of the Civil Rights Movement. On Christmas night in 1956, another bomb exploded under the church parsonage where Shuttlesworth and his family were asleep. By some miracle he and his family survived unharmed. And, while time can erase something's from the cityscapes and minds of many; these struggles for basic human rights remain paved over the streets across America and the Globe.

    It was in 1992, when the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute opened its doors in hope these stories could be told with clarity. From the rise of the Civil Rights movement to the events it bore around the nation, including the 1955 arrest of Rosa Parks on a Montgomery bus for her refusal to give up her seat to a white man. Then there was the U.S. Supreme Court’s bus desegregation ruling in 1956, and James Meredith’s 1962 admission to the University of Mississippi. Each event has left a indelible stain on America's history.

    Birmingham has many historic sites to explore, and numerous events throughout the year filled with festivities and fun. Wherever you go you feel a sense of the history that lingers. It calls to you, beckoning you to recognize it and remember what has passed, and what great potential there is for our future. There are moving movements, when emotions can overcome you, such as when you see the 16th Baptist Church that is located just across the street from the Civil Rights Institute, and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

    Be A Jelly Bean - Sample all flavors of the world, embrace our differences, and celebrate our humanity

    This National Historic Landmark is a constant reminder of the tragic and senseless loss of life that took place during the Civil Rights. When you see it, stop, take a deep breath, and say a prayer or blessing for 11-year-old Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins, who died after a bomb set by Ku Klux Klansmen exploded. They could have been Buddhist, Jewish, Catholic, or Muslim children preparing to raise their voices in thanks for their blessings. Does it really matter that these young women were African-American schoolgirls changing into their choir robes?

    Take a moment and think of this - we would have never known the names of these young women or any of the others who died senselessly if they had not have been victims of the Civil Rights Movement. They would have gone on to celebrate their graduations, to celebrate their unions in marriage, and the births of their children. They also would have enjoyed all the victories and struggles of everyday life just as we do each day if they had not been there on that day. This is true of the victims of the 911 attack of the World Trade Center as well. What stories and joyous moments would we have shared with these lost souls had they lived instead of becoming victims of these tragic events?

    We have walked many streets, and felt the presence of these lost souls who cling to the living because we are still struggling to find peace among ourselves. What does it take for us to realize we are all in the same boat, sink or swim - we are human beings. We come in a variety of colors, and just like jelly beans - some of us may be more flavorful than others; it doesn't mean we're all bad. It only means we may not suit your taste until you get to know us better.

    Be a Jelly Bean - we can't help what we are, we were created this way. When the moment presents its self, sample all flavors of the world - let yourself embrace our differences, and celebrate our humanity!

    By Melody Schubert

    Getting There:

    Learn more about the Civil Rights history in Alabama at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute by visiting their website at http://www.bcri.org.