50th Commemoration in Birmingham Brings Peak Events

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As the yearlong anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham continues, commemorative events are drawing tourists from around the world to the city that changed the world.

Birmingham is in the fifth month of the yearlong commemoration of Civil Rights related events that took place here 50 years ago in 1963. It was a year of upheaval and of violence, a year of revolution and of heartbreak. It was also the year Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and the year Klan members bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four little girls preparing for morning worship.

People are traveling to Birmingham from around the world to study the city’s civil rights history and to pay tribute to the freedom fighters, many of them children at the time, who put life and safety on the line to demand equal rights. Earlier this month, the city held a march to mark the historic “Children’s Crusade,” when the black youth of Birmingham left their classrooms and took to the streets of downtown, only to be met with police dogs and fire hoses with pressure so strong it could rip bark off trees.

Upcoming events scheduled to mark the 50th anniversary include:

  • The Prom We Never Had – Boutwell Auditorium – In May 1963, following the courageous and successful “Children’s Crusade” in the streets of Birmingham, students at local Negro high schools learned their end of school activities had been cancelled---including senior proms. Fifty years later, those students are invited back to Birmingham to attend the prom they never had. May 17
  • Race: Are We So Different – McWane Science Center - Interactive exhibits, historical artifacts, iconic objects, compelling photographs, multimedia presentations, and graphic displays offer visitors to RACE an eye-opening look at its important subject matter. May 18-September 2
  • Baseball and Segregation in Sports – Rickwood Field – The AA Birmingham Barons baseball team returns to historic Rickwood Field, the country’s oldest baseball park, for the annual Rickwood Classic, with special guest award-winning, All-Star African-American player Ferguson Jenkins. The classic this year celebrates the legendary 1948 Birmingham Black Barons. - May 29
  • Juneteenth – Birmingham Civil Rights Institute – Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration marking the end of slavery in the United States. June 1
  • 4 Little Girls: We Reflect. We Respond – Citywide – Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival hosts free simultaneous screenings of Spike Lee’s acclaimed film, “4 Little Girls,” a documentary about the notorious, racially motivated bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church 50 years ago. August 21
  • Marching On: The Children’s Movement at Fifty – Birmingham Civil Rights Institute - Sponsored by Birmingham Coca-Cola, this exhibit tells the story of The Children’s Crusade, when young black students of Birmingham took to the streets for the cause of civil rights. Through November 30
  • “To Kill a Mockingbird” – Virginia Samford Theatre – The theater presents the stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Special guests include Mary Badham, who played Scout in the 1962 film, and in selected performances, Birmingham attorney Doug Jones, who successfully prosecuted one of the bombers of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, will play the judge. September 12-22
  • Concert for Human Rights – Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex – Sponsored by BBVA Compass Bank, this all-star concert commemorating the 50th anniversary is expected to draw visitors from around the country to support the “50 Years Forward” movement. The lineup will be announced later this month. September 14
  • Official Marking of the 50th Anniversary of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing – Sixteenth Street Baptist Church - Major speakers of numerous denominations will pray for peace, understanding and tolerance.    September 15
  • A More Convenient Season: World Premiere of a New Work of Hope & Healing by Composer Yotam Haber – University of Alabama at Birmingham Alys Stephens Center - The commissioned performance features the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Choir and incorporates historical sound recordings from the library of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The program calls upon the healing power of the arts to address the horrific 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. September 21
  • “”The Watsons Go to Birmingham---1963” – Birmingham Children’s Theatre at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex – The acclaimed theater mounts the Birmingham premiere of Reginald Andre Jackson’s adaptation of Christopher Paul Curtis’s popular, award-winning youth novel. October 7-19

For more information on all commemoration events taking place in Birmingham throughout the year, visit http://www.50yearsforward.com, or call the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-458-8085.

Photographs available upon request: dhilley(at)birminghamal(dot)org

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Dilcy Hilley
Greater Birmingham CVB
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