In one of his last official acts, President Obama has designated Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and other civil rights landmarks in Birmingham, Ala., as the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument.
The designation protects the historic A.G. Gaston Motel in that city, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders had their 1963 campaign headquarters, as well as Kelly Ingram Park, where police turned hoses and dogs on civil rights protesters. And it includes the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where four girls died in 1963, after the Ku Klux Klan detonated 19 sticks of dynamite outside the church basement.
My prayer for the next 50 years is that the church can find the Gospel and put it first — ahead of race, class, nationalism, gun rights, and any other worldly divisions that place God's people in danger; and to recognize that apathy toward any of God’s people is a sin. As Christians, we owe it to the four Birmingham girls and the Charleston Nine to band together, to fight against allowing another hate crime within the walls of a holy space again.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In May 1963, thousands of Birmingham school children faced police dogs, fire hoses, and possible arrest to demonstrate against segregation. Now, 50 years later, those who were part of what became known as the “Children’s March” say they don’t want their story to be forgotten.
“We were doing this not just for ourselves but for some higher purpose,” said one of the young marchers, Freeman Hrabowski III. “It focused on civil rights for all Americans.”
Hrabowski is now president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He was 12 when he marched in Birmingham and was arrested for parading without a permit. He and hundreds of other children were held in custody for five days before being released.
Experts say the children’s crusade helped galvanize the civil rights struggle at a time when efforts were flagging.
“That was really the tipping point in a tipping year,” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch, who has written a series of books about the civil rights movement, told the PBS program “Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.”
A half a century after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. penned “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King’s prophetic words continue to reverberate. In “To Redeem the Soul of America” (April 2013), author and historian Vincent G. Harding recounts his time with King and explains how King’s “living letter” impacts each of us today.
Watch this video to learn more about King’s historic letter.
This past weekend, The Faith and Politics Institute led a three-day Congressional trip to visit Civil Rights landmarks across Alabama — from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham to Montgomery to Selma. It was an incredibly moving, emotionally exhausting, soul-quenching pilgrimage as we journeyed along with heroes of the Civil Rights movement and experienced their stories.
One such hero is Congressman John Lewis. A highlight of the trip for me is recorded at the jump.
On Monday's Colbert Report, Sojourners friend and Civil Rights activist Scott Douglas, discussed the overturn of Alabama's immigration law with host (and possible presidentail candidate) Stephen Colbert, and calls for a single, fair and national immigration law for the entire country.
Douglas is executive director of the Greater Birmingham Ministries in Alabama.
Watch his conversation with Colbert inside the blog...