On January 12, 2017 the National Park Service administered Alabama’s first ever National Monument to preserve and uphold the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement. Birmingham, AL has been on the map before officially being established as a home to a National Monument not solely due to it’s rich history, but the Civil Rights Institute’s capability of vividly articulating the struggle has been the cornerstone for this story.
The Civil Rights Institute is a Birmingham must, not just for tourists but also the local community. The institute couples history with art for a cathartic experience and a chronological walk through history. The self-guided tour starts with a short video that sets the stage for the start of the movement, then continues on into rooms of timelines, voice overs, sculptures, replicas of early-1900s buses, water fountains, court rooms, classrooms and more.
This National Monument does not vary in significance from New York’s 9/11 Memorial, Utah’s Bears Ears, or South Dakota’s Mont Rushmore. It is marked by history, art, and a people just like the rest. If you have visited any other National Monument you would recognize the familiar feeling of something that was lost mixed with a strange kind of pride. Maybe this pride is patriotism or maybe simply a hope for humanity. Whatever the emotion, it is felt at Alabama’s only National Monument, in a seemingly different capacity when felt in one’s neighborhood.