BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The civil rights movement in the U.S. spanned two decades and encompassed several cities throughout the South.

The events that took place in Birmingham during the 1950s and 1960s made this city one of the best known in the fight for civil rights.

Birmingham now markets a six-block section of the city as the Civil Rights District, an area that includes the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.

At the centerpiece of Birmingham's Civil Rights District is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was the scene of a deadly bombing in 1963. Dedicated in 1992, the institute is a living-history museum featuring a selection of self-guided exhibits.

A visit to the institute starts with a 12-minute film about the history of Birmingham from its founding through the 1920s.

Next is the Barriers Gallery, a collection of 14 venues that convey life under segregation. Replicas of a mine entrance, a segregated streetcar, a newspaper office, a classroom, a courtroom and a church are featured.

In the Movement Gallery, exhibits include "The Road to Montgomery," a time line for the civil rights movement, and "Statue of Rosa Parks."

Rosa Parks was the woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott.

Also featured is "Burned Bus," a replica of the bus carrying Freedom Riders that was firebombed in Anniston, Ala., and "Jail Cell," a replica of the Birmingham cell where Martin Luther King Jr. was held and where he wrote "Letter from the Birmingham Jail."

The Institute also features the Processional Gallery, Milestones, the Human Rights Gallery and the Resource Gallery as well as changing exhibits in the Community Gallery and the Odessa Woolfolk Gallery.

Through the end of the year, exhibits include "Southern Roots: African-American Artists with Alabama Ties," May 7 to June 25; "Going Strong: Older Americans on the Job," Sept. 3 to Oct. 29, and "Remembering 4 Little Girls: A Gallery of Creative Expressions," Sept. 3 to Dec. 26.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for seniors (ages 65 and older) and $1 for college students. Children ages 17 and under are admitted free, and admission for all is waived on Thursdays.

The Civil Rights District also includes the following:

  • The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. In September 1963, the Ku Klux Klan bombed the church, killing four African-American girls.
  • The church became the city's most famous civil rights landmark, and now offers guided tours and Sunday worship services. A gallery in the basement chronicles the church's storied past.

  • The streets surrounding Kelly Ingram Park, formerly known as West Park. This was the scene of a May 1963 civil rights demonstration in which police dogs and fire hoses were turned on the marchers, many of them young children.
  • Today the park occupies one square block near the Civil Rights Institute and the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and showcases several sculptures depicting the scenes that helped to outlaw segregation in the nation.

  • The Carver Theatre for the Performing Arts, which houses the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. The museum honors jazz artists with ties to the state. It is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Other sites in Alabama associated with the Civil Rights movement are the First African Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa; Brown Chapel AME Church and First Baptist Church, both in Selma, and the Selma-to-Montgomery National Historic Trail & All-American Road.

    Also, the City of St. Jude Historic District, the U.S. Post Office & Courthouse and the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and Pastorium, all in Montgomery, and the Butler Chapel AME Zion Church, Tuskegee.

    For more information on the Civil Rights District in Birmingham, contact the Birmingham Office of Public Information at (205) 254-2277.

    The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute can be reached at (205) 328-9696.

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