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In 1963, Alabama was the epicenter of the American Civil Rights Movement. The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and the Freedom Riders National Monument in Anniston tell the story of the critical events that occurred at this turning point in American history.
President Obama designated these national monuments in January 2017 through the authority of the Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to protect important places and landscapes across the country. While the civil rights monuments in Alabama are not currently listed in the Trump administration’s “review,” they are an important part of national monument system and help to preserve the places that tell the critical story of our nation’s history.
Birmingham Civil Rights Monument
The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, which includes the 16th Street Baptist Church, A.G. Gaston Motel, and Kelly Ingram Park, is key to telling the story of one of the most important movements of the 20th century.
The events that took place at 16th Street Baptist Church were key to the story of the fight for civil rights. Just over 50 years ago, a hateful and tragic bombing took place there that killed four little girls. The murderous event sparked a surge of momentum in the civil rights movement, and led to the passage of the historic 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell recently joined us and our partners at Conservation Alabama to tour 16th Street Baptist and discuss the importance of protecting these moving historical sites as well as other national monuments across the country.
The AG. Gaston Motel and Kelly Ingram Park also tell powerful stories of activism and resistance. The A.G. Gaston Motel was a hub for civil rights groups meeting in Birmingham. Since the designation of the monument in January, the motel, which had been vacant for nearly 20 years, will receive much-needed restoration and be preserved for generations to come.
Kelly Ingram Park is the site where young activists fought against segregation and faced violent attacks from the police. These attacks were some of the most disturbing images of the Jim Crow South and were televised for people around the world to see.
Freedom Riders National Monument
The Freedom Riders National Monument in Anniston, Alabama commemorates the activists known as the Freedom Riders who boarded buses to challenge segregation in the age of Jim Crow. The Freedom Riders Monument, which includes the Greyhound Bus Station in town and the site of the bus burning site off the highway, tells the important story of the students who were brutally attacked while fighting for civil rights.
Pete Conroy from Jackson State University was a co-chair of Freedom Riders Park and spoke on how the monument helps visitors learn about the legacy of the civil rights movement.
This monument not only preserves the stories of the movement; it has also helped to revitalize the city of Anniston’s economy. National parks and monuments support nearly $30 billion in national economic activity annually and more than a quarter million private-sector jobs. Tammy Herrington, the Executive Director of Conservation Alabama discussed the importance of protecting public lands in Alabama.
These monuments, along with others across the country, must be preserved so future generations can learn of the complete story of our nation. We must fight to protect these special places.
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