The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) will host two concurrent exhibitions: Courage: The Carolina Story that Changed America and “Para Todos Los Niños (For the Children) from April 8, 2014 to June 14. Both exhibits commemorate the 60th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education and are on loan from the Levine Museum of the New South of Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Courage” is a groundbreaking exhibit that tells the powerful grassroots story of the Rev. J.A. De Laine and the other brave citizens of Clarendon County, S.C., who, with the help of NAACP lawyer and future Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, brought the first lawsuit in America challenging racial segregation in public schools. Combined with four other national lawsuits, the result was the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown vs Board of Education, which ruled that racial segregation of schools was unconstitutional, subsequently initiating massive change in race relations in the U.S. “Courage” will be on display in the Odessa Woolfolk Gallery.
In conjunction with Courage, BCRI is also displaying Para Todos Los Niños: Fighting Segregation before Brown v. Board about the 1946 U.S. Court of Appeals case, Mendez v. Westminster School District, which ended school segregation for Mexican Americans. Like Courage, it tells a compelling grassroots story of multi-racial lawyers and activists who worked in then-rural Orange County, Calif., almost 10 years before the Brown decision. This exhibit was created by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance and will be on display in the Vann Gallery.
“Both exhibits tell the story of ordinary people – people outside the traditional power structure, without wealth and often with little classroom education – who worked together to forever change America,” stated Ahmad Ward, BCRI Head of education and Exhibitions. “Through personal histories, photographs, reproductions of letters and documents, artifacts and interactive components, visitors can get a sense of the inequalities during that time and how ordinary people can make a difference.”
During the two exhibitions’ stay, BCRI will sponsor related programs and conversations regarding education equity in the 21st century as well as the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Call 205-328-9696 x 234 or www.bcri.org for more information.
City of Birmingham’s Civil Rights Sites Confirmed on Department of Interior’s World Heritage Site List
The City of Birmingham’s Civil Rights sites were recently confirmed on the short list (14 nominees) for the Department of Interiors’ possible submission for UNESCO’s World Heritage Site designation. The City is currently preparing its full admission package and is expanding it to include Civil Rights sites from around the state. A team of experts are being assembled to present the most cohesive and historic group under the one admission. The goal is to be ready to present to the full World Heritage Committee in 2016.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place (such as a forest, mountain, lake, island, desert, monument, building, complex, or city) that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance. The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Program administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, as part of the United Nations.
“I am excited that the City of Birmingham is being considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Such a designation would solidify Birmingham’s place as a site of historic and cultural significance around the world. This designation would emphasize Alabama’s rich civil rights history and the role it played as a catalyst in the world’s pursuit of social justice,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell.
“We are working to establish Birmingham as an international destination for Human Rights. The World Heritage Site list is step one to that goal. Birmingham has a rich Civil Rights history. The peaceful protest model first perfected in Birmingham during the Civil Rights movement has been duplicated a cited around the world. We continue to embrace our past to build our future. This sort of designation will bring in more visitors from around the world and that translates into cultural tourism and a significant economic impact,” said Mayor William Bell.
“My staff will be working with the Birmingham Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the State of Alabama Department of Tourism, the Governor’s office and Congresswoman Sewell’s office to make this happen. We will be calling on the local universities and colleges to provide supporting materials as we make the case that the Civil Rights Legacy born here in Birmingham and throughout the State of Alabama is worthy of this nomination,” the Mayor continued.
The World Heritage Site program catalogues, names, and conserves sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity. Under certain conditions, listed sites can obtain funds from the World Heritage Fund. The program was founded with the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972. Since then, 190 states parties have ratified the Convention, making it one of the most adhered to international instruments. Only the Bahamas, Liechtenstein, Nauru, Somalia, South Sudan, Timor-Leste and Tuvalu are not Party to the Convention.
As of 2013, 981 sites are listed: 759 cultural, 193 natural, and 29 mixed properties, in 160 countries. By sites ranked by country, Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites with 49 sites, followed by China (45), Spain (44), France and Germany (both 38). While each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located, UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.