The new sign for the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument was unveiled during a dedication ceremony Saturday afternoon in downtown Birmingham.
For Alabama 7th District U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell getting the site recognized as a national monument has been a labor of love.
Since 2015, she’s worked to bring stakeholders and federal policymakers together in the Magic City in support of creating the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. In 2016, Sewell continued her efforts and introduced legislation, supported by the entire Alabama congressional delegation, urging creation of a national civil rights monument in Birmingham. Later that year, Sewell and Birmingham Mayor William Bell hosted Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis for a tour of Birmingham historical sites and a public meeting with the Birmingham community.
Her efforts finally paid off when President Barack Obama designated the site the Birmingham Civil Rights District as a national monument just days before leaving office in January 2017 using his authority under the Antiquity Act.
“Birmingham was the epicenter of America’s civil rights movement, and the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument recognizes the remarkable contributions made by the foot soldiers and leaders of the movement,” said Sewell, who was unable to attend the event due of the funeral of her father. “We can never repay the debts we owe to those who fought, bled, and died to secure the blessings of liberty, equality, and justice for all Americans during the struggle for civil and voting rights. The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument will help preserve their stories for future generations. I am thrilled at the investments the National Park Service is making in Birmingham as part of the national commitment to protecting the legacy of our nation’s civil rights heroes.”
The national monument — which includes the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI), the A.G. Gaston Motel, parts of the 4th Avenue Business District and Kelly Ingram Park, where protesters were hosed down in unimaginable showdowns during the civil rights movement — highlights civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham in 1963 held against legalized segregation.
“We can read textbooks and learn about different things, but I still think American citizens learn best when they go see, touch and feel the history that the National Park Service is preserving for future generations,” said Reginald Tiller, acting superintendent of the national park, in a video for the City of Birmingham.