The very roads we walked on were once walked on with hatred and malice during the Civil Rights Movement. The grass that we touched was once a place covered in anger and violence. The steps that we sat on were once destroyed because of a bomb of judgment. We walked around a part of Birmingham that was known for violence, segregation, murder, bloodshed, and hatred. People lost their lives, their houses, their churches, and their families; all because white people could not fathom the thought that a person of a different shade of skin, could be equal to them. The Civil Rights Movement was a long, painful road for people living in the south, but especially those who were living in the Birmingham area. People gave their lives as sacrifices so that the Civil Rights Movement could change the social norms of the south. These people stood up to oppression because they wanted equality for their entire community. These people acted in places that held significant meaning and these three places; a slavery ship, Kelly Ingram Park, and 16th Street Baptist Church, changed the world’s view of Civil Rights.
The first place that impacted the Civil Rights Movement was on a ship. According to an article from American History the last slave boat was found off the coast of Mobile, Alabama. The name of the boat was the “Clotilda” and it was responsible for carrying over 110 slaves from Africa. These slaves were put to work on different plantations throughout Alabama and they were never treated with any kind of human value. The man who brought these slaves over to America was Timothy Meagher and he enslaved these people, even after the law had been passed that deemed slavery illegal (Richardson 6).
Timothy Meagher wanted to see if he could get away with buying and transporting slaves illegally, so he sent over the “Clotilda” and brought the people back to his plantations. These 110 people sacrificed their lives, their freedom, and their rights by boarding a boat with no intention of coming back to their homes in Africa because according to Richardson, they experienced poor health and did not have the money to travel, once they were freed (6).The boat that carried the slaves holds significant meaning because throughout history a boat symbolizes hope, or a community of people searching for something better, but the “Clotilda” carried these African Americans to their living hell. They were beaten and they were kept out in the blazing sun to work for long, continuous hours. They were stripped of every piece of freedom and respect. According to Richardson, The slaves created their own town after they were free because they could not go back home to their villages in Africa, so they started Africatown in Mobile, Alabama (6).
They had to stay in Alabama and witness all the violence, and segregation, and death that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement after they experienced some of the worst racist acts. If these people had not boarded a boat, then no one in Birmingham would have been able to make radical change through the society. According to an article in the blah blah blah, Slavery was the beginning of the long war for civil rights, and slavery is why the civil rights is mainly associated with the Birmingham area (citation needed). Slavery began in Alabama and ended in Alabama. It is impossible, as told through an article in in National Geographic Traveler, to visit Birmingham and not be reminded of the civil rights strife that occurred in this city (Schoenfield 57). The “Clotilda” may have been the worst form of life for these African Americans, but their actions on the boat, changed the way people viewed slavery and inspired the people to fight for their freedom and equality.
The second place that changed the course of the Civil Rights Movement in history was Kelly Ingram Park. People were protesting in the park because they were tired of the segregation, tired of the oppression, and tired of being treated with violence and hatred. These people were standing firm in what they beloved to be true, but the white supremacist leaders did not approve and brought out hoses and dogs on the people. According to an article in The Brisbane, the hoses that were used where so powerful that they tore up the bark on the trees, and if the hose hit anyone below the waist it completely flipped them over. The dogs that they let out were so vicious they would bite people and severely injury them or cause infections (Balogh 66). A park is supposed to be a place of relaxation, but the white supremacists turned it into a battlefield. Children, grandparents, and parents all assembled together to stand in the middle of the park with signs stating that they would continue to fight, no matter the cost, and as a result they were injured severely.
A park should be a place of peace. It is a place where children play, and community gathers to be with one another. But this peaceful place was turned into a battlefield once, according to Balogh, the 18-20 dogs were released on the people (#). The place that was relaxing and peaceful became aggressive and horrifying. The white, racist, leaders took a place that was centered around community and turned it into a place of separation. They brought tears to a place of happiness. They encouraged violence in a place that was associated with peace. According to an article in the National Geographic, the park has returned back to its restful state, but Kelly Ingram park is still reminded by the remaining scars of its past (Schoenfield 59). The park is still associated with the events that occured in 1963 and many people suffered that day, so that their future children could pursue a life of equality and freedom.
The last place that moved an entire nation to support the Civil Rights movement was the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. One morning, four little girls were getting ready for Sunday school in the powder room of their church. The girls were giggling and laughing as they were fixing their fall dresses and brushing their hair, when all of a sudden, the giggles and laughing stopped. The tiny hands that were fixing their dresses lost movement, and the smiles that were once bright lights on all of these girls’ faces, were snuffed out. The building began to shake and crumble as the bomb exploded by the powder room, and those who were sitting in the sanctuary all began to fear the same thing.
According to an article in the Smithsonian, the names of the girls were Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins. All of the girls were fourteen years old except for Denis, who was only eleven years old (McWhorter 16). According to an article in the National Geographic Traveler, the congregation of the church was heavily black, and the bombing was done because of the Ku Klux Klan’s intense hatred for those people. The church was the safe place for these people and on September 15, 1963, the lives of all the people at church that morning changed (Schoenfeld 56). The act by the Klu Klux Klan brought death into a holy place and the act was so significant because a church is supposed to be a safe place. A church is where a community gathers to worship Christ.
A church is never seen as a place to hold violence and death. According to McWhorter, these people gathered in church every Sunday morning to be in community with one another, and to regain their hope from all of the oppression and segregation (#). The bombing became the pivotal event that brought the entire nation together because no one believed that so much death and destruction should ever happen in a church and kill four little girls, according to an article in Essence Magazine (Thomas 176). The Ku Klux Klan wanted to show that no matter where these people were, they were never safe and they did not want blacks to have any rights or any freedom, but their act of aggression became the event that turned everything around. Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins sacrificed their lives, and as a result, obtained freedom for their community.
In closing, the Civil Rights Movement was a long painful road that was filled with death, violence, and hatred. Many people sacrificed their freedom and their lives, so that others could learn from their mistakes. People lost their respect and their humanity because of inequality and racial bias. The south had to go through the most violent events to finally realize the issues with segregation, oppression, and violence. Now we are in the process of creating a fourth place to hold significance and that place is Restoration Academy. Restoration Academy is changing the community in Fairfield and giving hope to so many families who never believed it would be possible for their children to obtain such a well-rounded education.
The people in Fairfield are continuing to move forward after the Civil Rights Movement and have the freedom that their ancestors could not have. They are now able to study in an integrated school and achieve their studies with teachers who are encouraging them not only in their academic life, but also their spiritual life. This school is allowing children of color to pursue a good life and to live the life that their relatives would have wanted for them. The Civil Rights Movement was a stepping stone in obtaining equality and freedom for people of color.