Like the iron and steel produced by its early industries, Birmingham’s place in history is strong and steadfast. As an epicenter for the civil rights movement, we don’t shy away from acknowledging the lessons learned from our past.
Birmingham’s historical sites, museums, neighborhoods, theaters and churches tell the tales of generations who forged a progressive path not only for the South but the country as well. Expect to be riveted as you visit and hear stories of how Birmingham’s past unfolds into the present.
Civil Rights District
With its rich past, history is everywhere in Birmingham.
A good place to start is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, embedded in the city’s Civil Rights District. Exhibits and films walk you through the entire era, detailing human rights barriers, confrontations and the movement itself. On some weekends, the museum offers guided tours of the 4th Avenue Business District, spotlighting the history and culture of the area.
The 16th Street Baptist Church stands as a somber and important Birmingham landmark. In 1963, four girls were killed by the Ku Klux Klan. This devastating day turned out to serve as a large influence on the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. The church is active today and offers historic tours.
Across the street from the church is Kelly Ingram Park, the site of many organized boycotts and protests. The most memorable was in May 1963, when police turned hoses and unleashed dogs on protesters. Adults and more than 1,000 children were arrested that day before a peace pact was made. Today, you can view statues and take an audio tour of the park.
Sites + Museums
When it comes to industry, visit the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. In 1882, the Sloss family began producing iron, a staple of commerce for decades in Birmingham. Today, the landmark serves as a significant reminder of the Industrial Revolution, with furnaces, smokestacks, pipes and much of the original infrastructure still standing. The relics stand in stark contrast to a 32-acre park that now surrounds the facility.
Another salute to the Birmingham’s industrial heritage is the Vulcan Statue. The largest cast iron statue in the world, Vulcan was built in 1904, weighs 50 tons and stands 56 feet tall. A monument to civic art, the statue, which overlooks Birmingham, was recently rehabilitated and is now joined by an expanded museum and park.