We visited two very important historical places today: Kelly Ingram Park and the 16th Street Baptist Church, along with the modern Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a museum and archive center.
Kelly Ingram Park was the place of many demonstrations and protests. This was also the park where Eugene “Bull” Connor ordered dogs and high-pressure water hoses at the demonstrators, which was enough to push them down to the ground and injure them.
An interesting fact about the statues in this park is that they are partially enclosed by a wall. For instance, in this photo of the dogs below, just about half of the dogs are seen and nothing else.
Our tour guide, Barry McNealy, said the statues were designed that way in order to deter any negative connotations about police and fire fighters in the modern day. The restrictions have become lax, though, as there is one statue with a police officer, dog and child.
Another impactful place was visiting the 16th Street Baptist Church, which is kitty-corner to Kelly Ingram Park. After hearing Sarah’s story about the day of the bombing, it was amazing to see it in person.
The church still operates today and has a monument dedicated to the four girls and an engraved stone at the location of where the bomb was placed. The church was altered after the bombing. The men and women’s bathrooms are switched and the side door is no longer there as it was in 1963.
We also got to meet two more veterans today. Janice Kelsey and Clifton Casey talked with us at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
Kelsey participated in the Birmingham Children’s March on May 2, 1963. She left school and marched to the 16th Street Baptist Church and was arrested along with the other children. She stayed in jail for three days until her parents came to get her on May 5. Authorities told her that the arrest would be “expunged,” but so far the arrest is still on her record and has put up barriers to opportunities for her.
Casey also participated in the children’s march to Birmingham, but he spent 11 days in jail and said it was “no fun.” He also said that the biggest fear in Birmingham was the police, Kelsey agreed. His father also told him, “Don’t ever talk to white people.”
Birmingham is a unique city in the Civil Rights Movement because segregation was actual laws, whereas in other cities it was social custom. Casey said that African American people “didn’t talk about the segregation, but knew about it.”
“I know what it is to be the oppressed one,” Casey said.