Trace the footsteps

of brave men and women who stirred the conscience of a nation and influenced the course of the international struggle for human rights.

1963

Birmingham, Alabama

The nation watched,

the world watched,

as citizens of the most segregated city in America rose together in a cause that would ignite change around the world.

Foot Soldiers

Profiles of Courage Then and Now

The exhibition represents a unique opportunity to have captured the images and stories of remaining members of a group of civil rights activists whose numbers are diminishing. Noted photographer, author and Alabama native Chester Higgins, Jr. was commissioned to shoot portraits of individuals who participated in civil rights activities in Birmingham during the 1960s. Higgins was born in Fairhope, Alabama; after graduating from Tuskegee College in 1970, he moved to New York to begin his career as a professional photographer. Higgins eventually became a staff photographer for the New York Times; his photographs have also been published in Look, Life, Time, Fortune, Newsweek, Ebony, Essence and Black Enterprise magazines. In addition to his photo journalism, Higgins has published numerous photography books and has toured several collections of his photography.

Dr. Richard Arrington, Jr.

Birmingham City Councilman

Arrington served as a two-term Birmingham city councilman and afterwards was elected the first African-American mayor of Birmingham in 1979, a position which he held for five-terms. Under his leadership as mayor, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute was constructed.

Reverend Carolyn McKinstry

Church Congregant

McKinstry has been a life-long member of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and was very close friends with Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins and Carole Roberts, who were all tragically killed when the Church was bombed on September 15 1963. On the day of the bombing, McKinstry was in attendance at the church.

Reverend Frank Dukes

Organizer, Miles College

Dukes was the contact person and organizer of the Miles College students who demonstrated during the Selective Buying Campaign that was conducted by those students. He was an active member of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Myrna Carter Jackson

Student Activist

Jackson graduated from Parker High School and as a student activist, was arrested for demonstrating at Newberry’s Department Store in downtown Birmingham; after being arrested, she spent two weeks in the Birmingham City Jail.

Dr. Horace Huntley

Professor, UAB

Huntley was awarded one of the first undergraduate degrees in African American Studies from the University of Minnesota and taught at the University of Alabama Birmingham for 28 years. He served on the Task Force that established the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and is a founding Board member of the Institute and has co-authored the books, Black Workers’ Struggle for Equality in Birmingham and Foot Soldiers for Democracy.

Janice Kelsey

Demonstrator

Kelsey marched in demonstrations during the May 1963 “Children’s Crusade”; she was arrested and spent several nights in the county jail. She attended several of the Mass Meetings held on Monday nights by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. She knew three of the young girls who were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.

Rickey Powell

Demonstrator

Powell was a participant in the 1963 Children’s Crusade demonstrations. He marched with a group of students from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church to downtown Birmingham where he was attacked by police dogs, sprayed with fire department water hoses, spat upon, and arrested by the Birmingham Police Department.

Reverend Gwendolyn Webb

Activist

Webb attended her first demonstration as a ninth grader in 1963; she was taught non-violent tactics by Reverend James Bevels and Dorothy Cotton, both SCLC members. She faced water hoses and police dogs and was arrested several times. She also met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and spoke with him on several occasions.

Reverend Jonathan McPherson

Organizer

McPherson attended the initial meetings that formed the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights with Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth; he participated in organizing demonstrations that took place in downtown Birmingham and worked with different ministers including Reverend Shuttlesworth, Reverend Andrew Young and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Miriam McLendon

Student Activist

During 1963, in her sophomore year at Wenonah High School, McClendon became a student activist. She was arrested in the spring of 1963 while picketing the Atlantic Mills Store in downtown Birmingham. She was incarcerated at the Birmingham Fair Grounds and held in the prison’s “sweat box.”

Reverend Calvin Woods

Demonstrator

Woods graduated from Parker High School and was the winner of the Birmingham News-Post Herald Oratorical Contest, which included a scholarship and stipend to attend Miles College. He was arrested for demonstrating and preaching about racial injustices in Birmingham. He has held membership in the NAACP, SCLC, and ACMHR and is brother of the late Rev. Abraham Woods, Jr.

Virginia Volker

Activist

During her early years of involvement in the Movement, Volker was a member of Independent Action, an activist group of UA and Stillman College students. Relocating to Birmingham, she joined the Birmingham Unitarian Church and fellowshipped at African American churches. She worked with Black and White students at Movement meetings and was also active in the Friendship in Action Panel of American Women.

Cleopatra Goree

Instructor, Ullman High School

Goree became involved in the struggle for civil rights after hearing an electrifying sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who spoke at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. During the Movement, Goree attended mass meetings regularly and was a member of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. As an instructor at Ullman High, she acknowledges she did not stop her students from leaving the classroom to participant in the demonstrations downtown.

Marva Burns

Teacher, Ullman High School

Burns was a teacher at Ullman High School when the demonstrations were going on. She marched from New Pilgrim Baptist Church to Memorial Park on the Sunday Rev. Charles Billups prayed at the Lynn Henley Park demonstrations. She also attended the March on Washington in 1963.

TODAY

The Long Journey Towards Freedom

Across the world, challenges remain in the struggle for human rights.