Birmingham: Introduction

Modern Birmingham calls itself the "Magic City," but this young city, which was founded after the Civil War, has seen its days of adversity. Early in its history it suffered from epidemics, crime, and violence. It failed badly in two depressions and saw, in its darkest days, violent racial confrontations. After years of hard work on race relations, Birmingham gradually moved to such a state of racial equality that it was designated an "All America City" for its progress. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, located near the downtown statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., works to educate about the community and beyond in lessons on race relations. In other ways, Birmingham has done much to distance itself from the past and move forward. One of Birmingham's darkest chapters came to a close in 2002 when jurors delivered a guilty verdict in the case of the 1963 church bombing that killed four African American girls. Once dubbed the "Pittsburgh of the South," the city now employs the majority of its workers in service jobs. The arts continue to flourish, the city's medical research and treatment facilities are world class, and Birmingham is the second largest financial and banking area in the Southeast. Residents attend plays, concerts, and sports events in one of the finest facilities in the country, and they shop, eat, and relax in one of the Southeast's largest enclosed malls, the sparkling Riverchase Galleria. At the heart of the new Birmingham stands the city's symbol, a statue of Vulcan, Roman god of fire and the forge. To many, Birmingham seems to have been magically forged anew.