The Foot Soldier

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"The Foot Soldier" is a 13-foot tall bronze sculpture by Ronald McDowell dedicated in May 1995 in Kelly Ingram Park. The sculpture features a Birmingham Police officer holding the leash of a police dog in one hand and the front of a boy's sweater in the other. The boy falls backwards as the dog lunges at him.

The artwork depicts an encounter that would have taken place during the Children's Crusade, the climax of the organized Birmingham Campaign of Spring 1963. In particular, the composition is similar to a photograph of a bystander, Walter Gadsden, being confronted by a police dog held by officer Dick Middleton. The Associated Press photograph by Bill Hudson, reached a worldwide audience and the image of police dogs and fire hoses became the indelible image of segregationist brutality in Birmingham.

The monument bears the following inscription on its granite base:

This sculpture is dedicated to the foot soldiers of the Birmingham Civil Rights movement.

With gallantry, courage, and great bravery they faced the violence of attack dogs, high powered water hoses, and bombings. They were the fodder in the advance against injustice. Warriors of a just cause; they represent humanity unshaken in their firm belief in their nation's commitment to liberty and justice for all.

We salute these men and women who were the soldiers of this great cause.

Richard Arrington, Jr, Mayor of Birmingham, May 1995

McDowell's sculpture was installed shortly after the opening of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the renovation of Kelly Ingram Park as "A Place of Revolution and Reconciliation," extending the Institute's program into the public sphere. It occupies a space on the southern end of the park, on a circular "Freedom Walk" which also features three steel sculptures by James Drake.