In October 2011, I traveled to Birmingham with my friend Chris Cotten. One of the side-trips we made was to the 16th Street Baptist Church, site of the 1963 bombing. The church is noted for its role in the Civil Rights Movement, and it still functions as an active church.
The 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed on Sunday, September 15, 1963. The explosion at the African-American church, which killed four girls, marked a turning point in the U.S. 1960s Civil Rights Movement and contributed to support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
I am unaccustomed to describing architecture, but I’ll give it a try. The building is a massive 3-story structure with 2 large towers flanking both sides of the front of the church. The church has a two-toned brick, with large brown concrete bricks on the first floor, which houses classrooms for the church. The first level also contains the decorative corner stone that states that the building was erected in 1909. The second and third stories consist of a smaller brick colored with a lighter brown. Large steps lead from the street level to the entrance, which is encased by three large arches with a large wooden door in the middle. From looking at the building, I presume the steps lead to the sanctuary with a balcony. The church does provide tours of their building, but they were closed when we arrived.
The building is located by a major street, and it makes sense that it would have been a rallying point for organized efforts in the Civil Rights Movement. Surrounding the building, there are several memorials dedicated to the bombing and the four girls who lost their lives.
In 1992, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) was built across the street and serves as a museum for the Civil Rights movement in the city. Due to limited time, we were unable to go into the museum, but I would like to have the opportunity in the future.
In front of the museum there is a statue of Fred Shuttlesworth, a leading voice in the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement. The statue served as a memorial with several flowers for Shuttlesworth, who had recently passed away. Down the street, there was a placard for a mass meeting site for the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Shuttlesworth served as the president of this organization from its founding in 1956 until 1969.