Birmingham, Alabama was instrumental in civil rights movements, which is perhaps the reason why the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute was built there. From the time of the Civil War the rights of African Americans have been steadily gaining speed. It took over a century for great waves to be made and Martin Luther King Jr. to change a great many things. With the changes that occurred more African Americans were able to own stores and businesses, eventually making a mark on the community in Birmingham. All of this history and more is shared at the institute. The museum was first discussed in 1977 when Mayor David Vann stated a civil rights museum should be added to the city. In 1978 the city council endorsed the idea and in 1979 more study was needed before the building and museum would come to fruition.
In fact it was not until 1987-88 that a design was finally chosen for the building and the funds were raised to build it. Now that the museum is open anyone can attend including school groups and other tours. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 5pm, Sunday 1pm to 5pm, and closed on major holidays. Martin Luther King's holiday the museum is open with free admission. Admission prices are $12 for adults, $5 for seniors, $6 for college students with ID, and children 4 to 12 are $3. Sundays the admission is donations only, meaning one does not have to pay the admission but instead can offer a donation if they wish.
As with any museum there are permanent, special, and traveling exhibits. The permanent exhibits will depict several important instances in American history for the African Americans and their civil rights. It also looks to the past and what people have had to accomplish. Some of the more important people of history are also discussed in the exhibits like Rosa Parks and her decision regarding where to sit on the bus.
Special exhibits include the Odessa Woolfolk Gallery. This 1800 square foot space display shows the 381 days that sparked a Boycott of the Montgomery Buses based on Rosa Parks. It also shows the Woolworth Lunch Counter Sit in that occurred in Greensboro, North Carolina and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The David J Vann Gallery is a bit smaller than the Odessa, at 1200 square feet. This exhibition space is used for local artists and organizations. Since it is a special exhibit space the displays can change. For a month there will be a display regarding Helen Keller and the Student Art Show. The Park Gallery space does not have an exhibit right now, but they will have many to come in 2010 and the next few years.
Traveling exhibits include the Freedom Rides Photographs, Selma to Montgomery, Remember Four Little Girls, and Elder Grace. These exhibits are on loan from other museums, thus one should check to make sure they are at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute before traveling to Birmingham.
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