For the Gadling series “World Heritage Site new “Tentative List”: Places to Love” we are covering the 14 sites that have been submitted for possible inclusion as an official World Heritage Site in the United States. The sites will not be posted in order of importance or in the order they appear on the list.
Name of site: Civil Rights Movement Sites
Location: Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama.
Reason for importance (in a nutshell): Three churches, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery and the Bethel Baptist and 16th Street Baptist Churches in Birmingham, all historically African-American, played significant roles during the Civil Rights Movement.
Jamie’s Take: Of all the places on the new Tentative Sites list, these are perhaps the most humble and each hold enormous significance to American history. During Black History month, this is a fitting time to pay tribute. Here’s why:
Picture Martin Luther King Jr. standing at the simple pulpit of what was then called Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. From 1954 to1960, he was the pastor of this church, preaching his message that pulled people into a movement that changed history. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was organized from here. The church today looks similar to what it did back then–even the pulpit is still there.
In Birmingham on September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church. Hatred killed four girls while they were putting on their choir robes. Members of the Klu Klux Klan were responsible. The bombing played a large role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The church, in the heart of the Civil Rights District of Birmingham, still operates as a church today. In 1873, when it was founded, it was the first African American church to in Birmingham.
From 1956-1961, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) was headquartered at the Bethel Baptist Church. The early Civil Rights movement efforts were organized here, including the Freedom Ride bus trip that helped lead to the desegregation of bus transportation. This church was bombed several times and is now a National Historic Landmark.