MLK Jr. Day and Alabama's Civil Rights Sites
In December, Steve and I visited Nuremburg, Germany. We went to a parade stadium where Hitler forced people to stand for hours while he spewed his hate-filled messages against the Jews and for the superiority of the Aryan race. We also saw the building where the Nuremburg trials were held for those who committed the horrendous acts of war crimes during World War II. Our guide confessed that the people of Nuremburg didn't quite know what to do with such places in their city. They wanted desperately to replace the city's association with those terrible acts and times with a more positive connotation and association, but at the same time, they acknowledged that those events DID happen. They are a part of history and need to serve as a reminder and warning to never let such things happen again.
We have a very similar scenario in Alabama. Many of the clashes between blacks and whites and the brutalities inflicted on black people occurred in our state. I wish it hadn't happened, and as I've confessed on this blog before, I wish I had roused myself from my spoiled, middle-class, almost apathetic comfort and joined in the efforts to gain equal rights for blacks in Alabama. Sadly, I did not. I don't believe I was ever cruel or unkind, but neither did I make things better.
Birmingham has some very important sites that I believe would be beneficial for you to visit, if you haven't already. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 16th Avenue Baptist Church (where 4 young girls were killed in a bombing while attending church on a Sunday morning), and Kelly Ingram Park are all within sight of each other. Steve and I first went to these places on our own, then decided to take the grandchildren back during Cousins Camp a few months later. We wanted to do our best to describe what happened during the 1950's-60's and let them express their own thoughts and feelings about it from their young perspective. Most had a hard time grasping how people could be so brutal to others. Their overall feeling was one of sadness and bewilderment.
In a few weeks, I'll be visiting similar sites in Selma and Montgomery and plan to take two granddaughters with me. I'll be sure to share photos and impressions from that visit here on the blog, but since today is MLK Jr. Day in America, I thought it would be good to share some photos once again from Birmingham.