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it was Birmingham s Bethel Baptist Church that is credited with shaping the Civil Rights Movement here.
Civil rights legend, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, was pastor of Bethel Baptist Church from 1953 through 1961. The church often served as a gathering place for discussions of civil rights among blacks, gatherings that angered white supremacists. In 1958, Bethel Baptist was bombed though the church was empty at the time.
The bombing cemented Shuttlesworth s fiery determination to bring Birmingham to the center of the Civil Rights Movement. His high profile in the movement incited other acts of violence against him. Shuttlesworth later endured vicious beatings while trying to integrate schools, buses and businesses. He remained active in the Birmingham struggle even after he moved to Cincinnati in 1961.
A statue of Shuttlesworth at the entrance of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute pays tribute to, some say, an unsung hero and his self- described agitation for civil rights.
16th Street Baptist Church, across from the Civil Rights Institute is designated a National Historic Landmark. In the basement of the church on a September Sunday morning in 1963, four African-American schoolgirls were changing into their choir robes. A dynamite bomb set by Ku Klux Klansmen ripped through that side of the church, killing 11-year-old Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins, all 14 years old.
The bombing shocked and sickened the city and the world and was a turning point in the status of race relations in this country. For nearly five decades since that time, visitors have come from all over the world to honor the victims.
Now a marker has been placed on the east side of the church where the girls were killed.
Facing the Civil Rights Institute, Kelly Ingram Park served as a congregating area for demonstrations in the early 1960s, including the ones in which police dogs and fire hoses were turned on marches by Birmingham police. Images of those attacks haunted Birmingham in the decades that followed, but they were the
same images that were instrumental in overturning legal segregation. A free cell phone tour guides visitors through the events of 1963. Also in the park is the Anne Frank tree, a symbol of freedom dedicated to the memory of those who died in the Holocaust.
Also nearby in the district is the Alabama Jazz Hall
of Fame and historic Carver Theater for the Performing Arts. The museum honors jazz greats with ties to the state of Alabama. Exhibits showcase the accomplishments of the likes of Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Erskine Hawkins, Sun Ra and the music that made them famous.
The Eddie Kendrick Memorial Park, just down the block, honors Birmingham native and Temptations lead singer Eddie Kendrick, who traveled the world but never forgot his Alabama roots.
The Fourth Avenue Business District remains active with restaurants, barbershops and bakeries. This cluster of black-owned businesses was the core of African-American social and commercial life in the early 1900s and later when white-owned shops and stores refused to serve black customers. Many minority-owned businesses still operate in the district today, serving a steady stream of customers of all races.
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