Awakening to Alabama’s Black History

AHF Recognizes Black History Month
During February, we will feature a series of blog posts focusing on Black History Month. Please join us in the discussion and comment with your own opinions and tales.

Written by Jennifer Dome, AHF’s public relations and publications manager

“I like to believe
that the negative extremes of Birmingham’s past
will resolve into the positive and Utopian extreme of her future;
that the sins of a dark yesterday will
be redeemed in the achievements of a bright tomorrow.”
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I moved to Birmingham four years ago not really knowing what to expect. I knew the Alabama from my history books—the Civil Rights Movement, the students blocked from enrolling at the University of Alabama, the four little girls killed at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

But those history books didn’t make me feel what really happened here during the years that African Americans, and some people of other races, fought for their freedom, their rights, what they as citizens of the United States deserved. What brought that to life for me was the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Each exhibit in this institute moved me. Starting with the quote copied above by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. From the photographs, to the news articles, to the facts and figures, the true meaning and struggle of the Civil Rights Movement overwhelmed me.

My favorite part of the institute is the section on Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” written on April 16, 1963. Every time I visit, I have to read this letter from top to bottom.

“I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

This is the passage that touches me deeply. Still, today, we witness injustice in our own communities. In our own country. And we hear stories of it all over the world. If Dr. King can teach us one thing, if there’s one thing I’ll always remember from my visit to the BCRI, it’s that passage: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

As we reflect on Black History this month, on the progress that has been made through the Civil Rights Movement and other struggles, to the steps that still need to be taken today, let’s remember these words and take them to heart.