Alabama #1: Kelly Ingram Park

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Sweet Home Alabama, where the skies are so blue.

As some vigilant readers may have noticed, Wednesdays tend to be travel days here at Preservation in Pink. This past weekend, Vinny and I visited a friend in Birmingham, Alabama.  Our friend is a wonderful host and catered to our interests, which included a lot of preservation related sites. Thus, Birmingham posts will be a series. This is Alabama post #1, the Kelly Ingram Park in downtown Birmingham. Alabama posts will appear on Wednesdays for the next few weeks.

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16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL

The Civil Rights District in downtown Birmingham, Alabama is a six block area recognizing important events of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Among these sites are the 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park. The 16th Street Baptist Church, a National Historic Landmark, is the site of a September 1963 bombing that killed four young African American girls. The church had become the site of civil rights demonstrations and after the bombing, the United States and other nations around the world openly condemned segregation. See the HABS documentation of the 16th Street Baptist Church here from the Library of Congress – photographs and historical research and measured drawings.

Closer view of the 16th Street Baptist Church

The brick construction and the neon sign of 16th Street Church.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

On the opposite corner of 16th Street Church is Kelly Ingram Park, formerly known as West Park, where police and fireman attacked civil rights demonstrators in May 1963. Men, women, and children were hosed with high pressure fire hoses, beaten with policemen’s night sticks, and arrested. One man attacked by a police dog. Men, women, and children as young as six years old were arrested and jailed. Images of these tragic incidents were broadcasted all over the world. Seen in the above photograph is a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the park.

Kelly Ingram Park memorials

Today, the four acre is park is home to the Freedom Walk, which leads visitors in a circle around the park through sculptures of the police dog attack, the fire hoses, and a jail cell. The park was named Kelly Ingram Park in 1932 for Osmond Kelly Ingram, a sailor in the U.S. Navy who died in World War I and received the Medal of Honor posthumously. In 1992 the park was renovated and rededicated with the Civil Rights Institute.  Visitors may take an audio tour or their own self guided tour to enjoy the peacefulness of the park today. Seen below is the police dog attack sculpture in the park.

The police dog attack

The sculptures are powerful images, a contrast to the beauty and unity of the park today. It is across the street from the Civil Rights Institute and worth a visit, as a tribute to those who fought long and hard and suffered in order to earn equal rights in the United States.  See the National Register of Historic Places Travel Itineary for additional historic sites of the Civil Rights movement.

The fountain at the park

The park fountains.

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