The Civil Rights Movement can be a very touchy subject for most individuals to examine and consider. Some find it difficult to discuss because the Civil Rights era is littered with racial injustices, horrendous crimes and countless murders. If you are African American you have no doubt heard of stories involving your own relatives who may have been treated unfairly, degraded or even murdered. I know within my own family I have had a lot of family members falsely accused of certain crimes and they had to pay a terrible price for somebody else’s lie. A good number of them had to pay with their own life. My maternal Grandfather who looked White had to fight most of his young life because he was accused of taking up with a Black woman, my Grandmother, even though he himself was considered Black according to the one drop rule. My paternal Grandmother who was a thoroughbred American Indian from the Blackfeet tribe was hounded most of her young life for taking up with a Black man, my Grandfather. As I sit here typing this blog post, the blood inside of me is beginning to boil because I know the pain and heartache it caused them and so many other minorities during that time. It is hard not to get angry when you sit and think about all the things they had to go through.
I cannot imagine the horror, fear and pain most African Americans felt day in and day out. Their frustrations due to the injustices that mounted up against them day after day must have been a tough and a bitter pill to swallow. I had a lot of family members lynched and burned because they refused to be treated like animals. I guess that is where I get my stubborn, fighting spirit. My own family history just like your own family history can vary, but if you are African American just like me, the one thing we all have in common is the racial injustice our families endured during slavery and during the Civil Rights era. That is one thread we all share.
That brings me to a priceless jewel that is residing here in the city of Birmingham and that is The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a museum full of artifacts and authentic pieces of American history that shows the raw truth of what went on before, during and after the Civil Rights Movement. Two things that stood out to me and touched my soul was the stained glass from the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four little girls in 1963 and the front part of the bus from the Freedom Riders bus bombing in 1961. Chills ran up and down my spine at the sight of it and tears began to well up in my eyes. It was a breathtaking sight to see and tourists that come each and every day relay those very same feelings. It is hard not to get choked up when you see something as powerful and resonating as the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. It makes you stop, think and appreciate what the Civil Rights era did and what it largely accomplished.
If you have never visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, you are really missing out on some tangible pieces of American History. It is not about living in the past, it is about learning from it, growing from it and appreciating those who fought so hard for equal rights, racial equality and justice. Ask yourself, “Am I living my life in a way that pays homage to those who suffered at a great cost so I can have the life that I now have?” Only you can answer that question.
Until next time…