In the spring of 1963, the eyes of the world were fixed upon Birmingham as protesters took to the streets in mass marches, demanding an end to segregation. With time, their peaceful efforts ultimately broke the back of segregation and led to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Now, many of Alabama’s elected officials are endeavoring to have the Birmingham Civil Rights District designated a national park in an effort to preserve its legacy and tell the story of a critical chapter in America’s fight for equality.
The Birmingham delegation, along with Mayor William Bell and Alabama 7th District U.S. Congresswoman Terri Sewell, traveled to Washington D.C. Thursday to meet with President Barack Obama‘s advisers to make the formal request for Obama to sign an executive order to make the designation.
In March of this year, Sewell introduced legislation that would designate the district as a new National Historic Park, but Thursday’s efforts, if successful, would be a faster path to making that happen.
“The establishment of a national park that honors Birmingham’s place in the history of the civil rights movement will also give us space to reflect on the many challenges we still face today,” said Mayor Bell. “The relevance of the events in Birmingham during the 1960s still speaks to every African-American today as we wrestle with equality, economic empowerment and social justice.”
The Civil Rights District, designated by the city in 1992, covers a six-block area of downtown Birmingham where several significant events in the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s took place.
Ranging from Sixth to Second Avenue North, and from 15th to 19th Street in the heart of downtown Birmingham, the district includes the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Kelly Ingram Park, 16th Street Baptist Church, Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, and the Fourth Avenue Business District.