African American Heritage

Few achievements in the past half century compare in importance with the American Civil Rights Movement. And no cities played as prominent a role in the movement as Birmingham. The Birmingham Civil Rights District is a six block tribute to the monumental fight for human rights in this country.

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
Kelly Ingram Park
Civil Rights Institute
Jazz Hall of Fame
Fourth Avenue Business District
Alabama Penny Savings Bank
A.G. Gaston Gardens
Tuxedo Junction
Smithfield Neighborhood

Miles College

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
1530 Sixth Avenue North (205) 251-9402
Worship services Sundays at 11:00am.
Tours by appointment.

A significant part of the Civil Rights District, the newly renovated Sixteenth Street Baptist Church is the site of the infamous 1963 bombing that killed four little girls and brought world condemnation of racial violence. Sixteenth Street continues its historical role as an open-door church welcoming cultural, educational and civic activities.

Kelly Ingram Park
Sixth Avenue North at 16th Street

Distinguished as “A Place of Revolution and Reconciliation,” historic Kelly Ingram Park serves as a threshold to the Civil Rights District. During the Civil Rights Movement, this public park became the focal point of a grassroots resistance to the inhumanities of racism and discrimination by law and by custom. Events which took place in Kelly Ingram Park vividly portrayed the realities of police dogs and fire hoses turned on marchers who gathered for civil rights demonstrations in the 1960’s. These images, which shocked the country and the world, proved to be instrumental in overturning legal segregation in the nation. Sculptures commissioned for the park depict attacks on demonstrators, children jailed for their role in the protests, and a tribute to the clergy’s contributions to the movement. In sharp contrast to scenes from the 60’s all paths on Freedom Walk converge on its center, a peaceful and meditative life spring of hope.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
520 Sixteenth Street North
(205) 328-9696
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10-5, Sunday 1-5
www.bcri.org

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) is a “living institution” which views the lessons of the past as a positive way to chart new directions for the future. BCRI’s permanent exhibitions are a self-directed journey through the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement and human rights struggles. Multi-media exhibitions focus on the history of African-American life and the struggle for civil rights. Visitors experience for themselves the drama of this courageous story as it is told in the permanent galleries. Patrons walk through the exhibitions from the era of segregation to the Movement and all of the historic events that took place in Birmingham. The Human Rights Gallery takes the visitor Beyond Birmingham to look at human issues around the world. The institute is more than a museum; it is a center for education, research and discussion about civil and human rights issues. Educational programs include workshops, lectures, traveling exhibitions and special events.

Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame
Fourth Avenue North at 17th Street
(205) 254-2731
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10-5, Sunday 1-5

The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame makes its home in the historic Carver Theatre for the Performing arts. The museum honors great jazz artists with ties to the state of Alabama. While furnishing educational information, the museum is also a place for entertainment. Exhibits convey the accomplishments of the likes of Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and Erskine Hawkins and the music that made them famous. Within this fine musical collection, visitors travel from the beginnings of boogie woogie with Clarence “Pinetop” Smith to the jazz space journeys of Sun Ra and His Intergalactic Space Arkestra.

Fourth Avenue Business District
Fourth Avenue North from 15th to 18th Street

The neighborhood along Fourth Avenue from 15th to 18th Streets North developed as the city’s black business district in the early part of the 1900s. Forced out by Jim Crow segregation and white-owned stores that did not welcome them as customers, African-American businessmen established their own retail, social and cultural center here. Black-owned banks, mortuaries, movie theaters and nightclubs flourished along the corridor through the 1960s. Some continue to this day.

Alabama Penny Savings Bank
310 18th Street North

Now the Pythian Building, the Alabama Penny Savings Bank was Alabama’s first black-owned bank and the first of three banks in the nation owned and operated by African-Americans in the early 1900s.

A.G. Gaston Gardens
1510 Fifth Avenue North

Formerly the A.G. Gaston Motel, this facility for many years provided Birmingham’s only first-class lodging for African-Americans and served in the 1960s as a gathering place for civil rights leaders.

Tuxedo Junction
1728 20th Street, Ensley

Named for the streetcar crossing at Tuxedo Park, the junction came to national fame through the 1939 hit song “Tuxedo Junction” by Birmingham composer Erskine Hawkins. The second floor dance hall of the Nixon Building (1922) here was the social hub for Birmingham’s black community in the 1920s and 30s.

Smithfield Neighborhood
Ninth Street North to Third Avenue West
Historic marker at corner of
Eighth Avenue North and Center Street

Smithfield was developed in the early 1900s as a neighborhood for prominent black professionals. Many homes in the district were designed by notable black architect Wallace A. Rayfield. Also in Smithfield is Parker High School, Birmingham’s first high school for African-American students.

Miles College
5500 Avenue G, Ensley
(205) 923-2771
www.miles.edu

Miles College opened its doors in 1908 to provide training for black teachers and ministers and continues to offer degrees in the liberal arts in a small co-educational setting.