American South #5: Walking in the Footsteps of The Civil Rights Movement

Justin Ahn’ 24, recounts a thought provoking day in Birmingham.

We started the day by visiting Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, where civil rights movement leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth used to preach. There, a church member led us through a workshop explaining the activism, and the non-violent ethos, of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, which led the movement for desegregation in Birmingham after the state of Alabama led the NAACP. She discussed an especially moving incident, when, after Bethel Baptist Church was bombed but Rev. Shuttlesworth escaped alive and unhurt, he quoted the book of Psalms: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” She and her co-presenter challenged us to consider the courage it took to take on the entirety of the municipal government, to remain non-violent while being kicked to the ground, and to send a black child to an all-white school after finally achieving integration.

Then, we visited 16th Street Baptist Church, famous for having been bombed by the KKK in 1963. The four young girls killed in the incident, and two boys killed an hour later, sparked a national outcry that brought attention to the horrors of southern racism. After that, we visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. There, we saw many artifacts from the historical events we had learned about so far on the trip, such as a truck used by Bull Connor to intimidate protesters. Following a long drive to Memphis, we walked through Beale Street, the Home of the Blues. We enjoyed dinner, and excellent live music, at the BB King’s Blues Club.