Places That Changed the World: Birmingham, Alabama

By World Monuments Fund

During the fight to secure and protect voting rights for African-Americans in the 1950s and 1960s, many homes and churches in Birmingham, Alabama, played important roles in the organization and success of the Movement. Today, site owners, stewards, and advocates have come together to form a consortium, included on the 2018 World Monuments Watch, that can collectively address the challenges facing the protection and preservation of these places and their stories. 

Modern day Historic Bethel Baptist Church (2018-06-01)World Monuments Fund

Historic Bethel Baptist Church served as headquarters for the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), which applied both legal and nonviolent direct action against segregation. During that time, the church was pastored by Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, a leader of the Birmingham Civil Rights movement. Bethel Baptist was also a key location during the 1961 Freedom Ride, and was the designated point of contact for the group in Alabama. Shuttlesworth worked with other movement leadership and the Kennedy administration to strategize moving the rides forward.

The church and its parsonage were bombed three times during the height of the Civil Rights movement, including Christmas Day, 1956.

Modern day 16th Street Baptist Church (1911)World Monuments Fund

Sixteenth Street was originally organized in 1873 as the First Colored Baptist Church. Its current structure was erected in 1911. Sixteenth Street was known as “everybody’s church” because of its role as a center for educational and intellectual activities. During the Civil Rights movement, the church hosted many mass meetings and trainings in nonviolent civil disobedience. In May 1963, the church was the staging site for Project C, the Birmingham campaign where hundreds of young, peaceful protestors were jailed following confrontation with police using dogs and fire hoses.

On September 15, 1963, members of the Ku Klux Klan planted a bomb at the church that exploded just after Sunday services, killing four young girls and generating international outrage that provided the impetus for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Modern day Ballard HouseWorld Monuments Fund

This house was built in the 1940s by African-American contractor Leroy S. Gillard for Dr. Edward H. Ballard, a black pediatrician and obstetrician. After it was sold in the 1950s, Ballard House rented its rooms as business space and lodging, and operated a restaurant frequented by the Birmingham Black Barons.

Dr. Herschell Hamilton Sr. moved his medical practice to Ballard House in 1959. It was there that he also hosted meetings of Civil Rights organizers and treated victims of violence that occurred when police dogs and fire hoses were used against marchers in 1963.

Old Sardis Baptist Church (1925)World Monuments Fund

Old Sardis Baptist Church was organized in 1884 and rebuilt in its current form in 1925. Rev. Robert L. Alford became pastor in 1947, and the church hosted meetings to organize the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), of which he was co-founder.

Old Sardis is located in the Smithfield community dubbed "Dynamite Hill" because of the frequency of racially motivated bombings that occurred in the area as black middle class moved into the previously all-white neighborhood in the 1960s.

Modern day St. Paul United Methodist ChurchWorld Monuments Fund

Founded in 1896, St. Paul is one of the oldest African-American churches in Birmingham. Its current building was erected in 1904. In 1956, St. Paul was the site of one of the earliest meetings in Birmingham following the direct action campaign to integrate the city’s buses. During the demonstrations of 1963, 1963, it hosted mass meetings as well as held trainings in nonviolent civil disobedience for the young demonstrators.

Credits: Story

The Alabama African-American Civil Rights Heritage Sites Consortium was included on the 2018 World Monuments Watch to place a spotlight on the efforts of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, encourage further stakeholder engagement, and ensure that the places we preserve tell the full story of our diversity.
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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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