Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail

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Signage located along 19th Street North

The Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail is an interpretive trail linking historic sites in Birmingham which were important to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s. The trail system was incorporated into the regional Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System.

The trail has been part of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's conceptual plan since its opening in 1992. Marjorie White of the Birmingham Historical Society led efforts to gather materials documenting specific sites. Much of that work was published in the 1998 book A Walk to Freedom. Discussions of how to proceed with creating a walking trail passed between the BCRI and Operation New Birmingham for years.

The impetus for translating that work into physical signage was kick-started as an initiative of Birmingham mayor Larry Langford in August 2008, and handed to Director of Capital Projects Renee Kemp-Rotan to develop. He also appointed an advisory board which included Odessa Woolfolk, Marjorie White, Lawrence Pijeaux, Horace Huntley, Victor Blackledge, Karla Calvert, Doris Powell, Kamau Afrika, Nathan Hicks, J. D. Appling, Shirley Floyd and Tommy Wrenn, representing a broad spectrum of preservationists, current and former activists, historians, planners and neighborhood leaders.

In May 2009 the Birmingham City Council approved $1 million from the sale of a city-owned warehouse to the BJCC to be applied toward creating interpretive signage and marketing materials over three years. Working with wayfinding experts Corbin Design of Traverse City, Michigan, journalist Vickii Howell, and local marketing firm Big Communications, Kemp-Rotan proposed a series of 80-inch tall interpretive markers at key sites, often featuring large-size historical photographs taken at the same locations. Additional support was given by the Birmingham Historical Society, the Greater Birmingham Convention and Tourism Bureau, the Birmingham Public Library, the Birmingham Alabama Foot Soldiers, the Birmingham News, and a project committee appointed by Langford.

A public presentation of plans for the trail was held on May 12 at Kelly Ingram Park with a video presentation and a performance by the Carver High School choir and Temple Light Mass Choir. As presented the first phase of the trail would be limited to 35 downtown sites, each of which would be highlighted by an individual marker. 12 additional signs will follow the routes of movement marches. 10 map kiosks will orient visitors within the area of the trail while vehicular signs and other indicators at entry points to the downtown area will assist visitors seeking the district. Most of the signs include reproductions of photographs, quotes from the era, and explanations of the significance of particular locations and events. Lesson plans available to teachers supplement the physical installation.

The first three interpretive signs, describing the "March to Government", were erected on the north side of Kelly Ingram Park on August 17, 2009. The signs were designed by Ford Wiles of Big Communications. An expansion of the trail into Smithfield, East Thomas and Enon Ridge was opened on March 8, 2014.

In the future the trail could be utilized by tour buses and for special events. Kiosks and multi-media presentations as well as landscaping and infrastructure improvements would mark future phases of work.

Trail routes

Route A: March to government

  • A1–A14: Route proceeds from northwest corner of Kelly Ingram Park and along 6th Avenue North
    • A1: "Jim Crow on the Books"
    • A2: "Police Presence"
    • A3: "Non-Violent Foot Soldiers"
    • A4: "The Palm Sunday March"
    • A5: "The Children's Crusade"
    • A6: "Children Under Attack"
    • A7: "Marchers on the Run"
    • A8: "The Good Friday March"
    • A9: "Joining the Marches"
    • A10: "Arrested at City Hall"
    • A11: "Public Library Desegregated"
    • A12: "The Right to Vote"
    • A13: "The Stand for Freedom"
    • A14: "A City of Two Governments"
  • A15 (removed and replaced with a timeline)

Route B: March to retail

  • B1–B21:
    • B1: "Don't Tread on Me"
    • B2: "Selective Buying Campaign"
    • B3: "Guards at the Gate"
    • B4: "Black Business Plans"
    • B5: "The New Strategy"
    • B6: "Children Under Pressure"
    • B7: "The Defiant One"
    • B8: "Little Lady in Waiting"
    • B9: "Little Boy Blue"
    • B10: "Courthouse Prayer"
    • B11: "The Bad Guy"
    • B12: "Picketing for a Point"
    • B13: "Equality for All"
    • B14: "Woman in Paddy Wagon"
    • B15: "Music in the Movement"
    • B16: "Let My Brother Go"
    • B17: "Celebrity Star Power"
    • B18: "Integration Corner"
    • B19: "Sitting in for Lunch"
    • B20: "Shutting Down Downtown"
    • B21: "South at the White House"

Route C: Destination

  • C1–C35:
    • C1: "Birmingham Civil Rights Institute"
    • C2: "Kelly Ingram Park"
    • C3: "Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and Parsonage"
    • C4: "St Paul United Methodist Church"
    • C5: "Sixth Avenue Zion Hill Baptist Church"
    • C6: "Ballard-Hamilton House and Office"
    • C7: "St John AME Church and Day Care Center"
    • C8: "Poole Funeral Chapel"
    • C9: "A. G. Gaston Motel"
    • C10: "A. G. Gaston Building"
    • C11: "Shores-Lee Law Offices/Post Office Garage"
    • C12:
    • C13: "Metropolitan AME Zion Church"
    • C14: "Taxi Stand"
    • C15: "The Fraternal Hotel Building"
    • C16: "Colored Masonic Temple"
    • C17: "Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame"
    • C18: "Dunbar Hotel Building Urban Impact Office"
    • C19: "Famous Theatre"
    • C20: "Eddie Kendricks Memorial Park"
    • C21: "Trailways Bus Station"
    • C22: "Alabama Penny Savings Bank" / "Pythian Temple Building"
    • C23: "Former F.W. Woolworth Store Building"
    • C24: "S.H. Kress Store Building"
    • C25: "Loveman's Department Store/McWane Science Center"
    • C26: "Newberry's Department Store/IMAX Dome Theater"
    • C27: "Vance Federal Building" (1 of 2)
    • C28: "Vance Federal Building" (2 of 2)
    • C29: "Greyhound Bus Station"
    • C30: "Birmingham City Hall"
    • C31:
    • C32: "Linn-Henley Research Library"
    • C33:
    • C34: "Boutwell Auditorium"
    • C35: "Phillips High School"

Route D: March For Education

  • D1–D15: The route proceeds from the southeast corner of Linn Park near the Linn-Henley Research Library along 7th Avenue North to Phillips Academy.
    • D1: "The Importance of Being Educated"
    • D2: "Separate But Unequal Education"
    • D3: "Little Lady Can Read"
    • D4: "Education of Black Folk"
    • D5: "Hope Arrives"
    • D6: "Alabama's Rebel Yell"
    • D7: "The Schoolhouse Stand at Alabama"
    • D8: "School Integration Now"
    • D9: "Children's Crusade for Education"
    • D10: "Southern Resistance"
    • D11: "Integration Begins: Desegregating Graymont School"
    • D12: "Desegregating West End School"
    • D13: "Desegregating Ramsay School"
    • D14: "Historic Demonstration at Phillips School"
    • D15: "March Route for Education Timeline"

Route E: March Towards a Purposeful Life

  • E1–E20: Documents the life of Fred Shuttlesworth. Route begins at Short 20th Street at Linn Park, in front of Birmingham City Hall and proceeds up 19th Street North to Arthur Shores Park and Oak Hill Cemetery
    • E1: "Birth of an Icon",
    • E2: "The Boy Becomes a Man"
    • E3: "Love & Marriage"
    • E4: "Answering the Call"
    • E5: "Shuttlesworth Goes to Work"
    • E6: "Shuttlesworth Starts the ACMHR"
    • E7: "Shuttlesworth v. 'Bull'"
    • E8:
    • E9:
    • E10:
    • E11:
    • E12:
    • E13:
    • E14: "Shuttlesworth Showdown"
    • E15: "Paying the Ultimate Price"
    • E16: "Shuttlesworth Continues the Struggle"
    • E17: "Shuttlesworth in Selma"
    • E18: "Shuttlesworth after the Civil Rights Era"
    • E19: "Shuttlesworth Returns to Birmingham"
    • E20: "Death of an Icon"

Route F: March for Moral Justice

  • F1–F15: Communicates the role of Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville, and the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights.
    • F1: "It Began at Bethel"
    • F2: "Bethel's Pastor Leads the Leaders"
    • F3: "A New Organization is Born"
    • F4: "A New Strategy: All-Out Attack"
    • F5: "The Working Class & Mass Meetings"
    • F6: "The First Bethel Bombing"
    • F7: "The Movement Continues"
    • F8: "Birth of the SCLC"
    • F9: "Leading by Example, Part 1"
    • F10: "Leading by Example, Part 2"
    • F11: "The Second Bethel Bombing"
    • F12: "The Movement's Most Fearless Leader"
    • F13: "ACMHR & the Student Activists"
    • F14: "Leaving Town, But Not the Battle"
    • F15: "ACMHR & the Second American Revolution"

Route G: Letter from Birmingham Jail

Route H: March for Fair Housing

  • H1–H23: Explains residential segregation, the work of Arthur Shores, and the clashes on Dynamite Hill
    • H1: "Racial Zoning"
    • H2: "Black Birmingham Housing"
    • H3: "Urban Renewal, Urban Removal"
    • H4: "The Push for Fair Housing"
    • H5:
    • H6:
    • H7:
    • H8:
    • H9:
    • H10:
    • H11: "Secret Multiracial Meetings"
    • H12:
    • H13: "Black Classes and the Masses"
    • H14:
    • H15: "Resistance on the Hill"
    • H16: "The Angela Davis House"
    • H17: "Children of Dynamite Hill"
    • H18: "First Neighborhoods, then Schools"
    • H19:
    • H20: "Gentle Giant of Dynamite Hill"
    • H21: "Attorney for His People"
    • H22: "The Price of Freedom"
    • H23: "Rev. Shuttlesworth Calls for Peace and Action"

Other sites

Additional signage was installed at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport

Civil Rights Movement (19561965)
Documents Segregation laws · ACMHR Declaration of Principles · Nonviolence pledge · Birmingham Manifesto · A Call For Unity · Appeal for Law and Order · Letter from Birmingham Jail · Birmingham Truce · Civil Rights Act of 1964
Events Freedom Rides · Who Speaks for Birmingham? · Selective Buying Campaign · Birmingham Campaign · Good Friday march · Children's Crusade · Police dogs and firehoses · List of racially-motivated bombings · 1963 church bombing · May 1963 riot
Organizations Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights · Birmingham City Commission · Ku Klux Klan · Miles College · NAACP · Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Activists Fred Shuttlesworth · Martin Luther King Jr · A. D. King · James Bevel · Frank Dukes · Edward Gardner · Lola Hendricks · Colonel Stone Johnson · Autherine Lucy · Vivian Malone · Joseph Lowery · James Orange · Nelson Smith Jr · John Porter · Abraham Woods Jr
Other figures Albert Boutwell · Robert Chambliss · Bull Connor · A. G. Gaston · Art Hanes · Lucius Pitts · Sidney Smyer · J. B. Stoner · "8 white clergymen" · Virgil Ware · "4 little girls"
Places Kelly Ingram Park · A. G. Gaston Motel · Movement churches
Legacy Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail · Birmingham Civil Rights Institute · Birmingham Pledge


External links