Today we went to Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham and toured the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, an excellent civil rights museum, which also contains the history of race and labor relations in Birmingham. I was especially impressed with the oral history collection which can be accessed by touch screens in the resource room. The art gallery also added another beautiful dimension to the tour.
Another phase of the movement was the Freedom Rides, which came to Birmingham in 1961. After we finished at the museum, Katherine Burke-Brooks met us and talked about her experiences as a Freedom Rider. She shared many details that made her experience vivid to us. She also spoke of her work with Robert F. Williams, a little-known, but very interesting NAACP leader in North Carolina, who championed self-defense. We wished we could have had more time with her.
We also visited the 16th Baptist Church, which was the organizing center for the demonstrations where thousands of children marched out into Kelly Ingam Park. They were met with dogs and fire hoses and the children are memorialized in that park. So are the four little girls who were killing by the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist church. We went to the photography studio and art gallery of Chris McNair, the father of one of those girls, Denise McNair. She will not be forgotten because of the beautiful photographs of her father and the delicious food catered by her sister Kimberly Brock. We at dinner at the studio and then rode on to Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. Tony Vaughn, our bus driver has driven faithfully and skillfully through these twisting, turning southern roads and even up to the hotel high above Birmingham, where we watched an amazing sunset. Thank you Mr. Tony!