Birmingham Spring

May 3, 2016

During my civil rights pilgrimage, I could not help but notice how beautiful the city would have been during the 1963 Birmingham Campaign. In Kelly Ingram Park, which some refer to as “ground zero” for those demonstrations, I was especially struck by the juxtaposition between the ugliness of police dogs and fire hoses turned on nonviolent protestors and the beauty of pink azaleas, red roses, green grass, and white baby’s breath. Iconic photographs from the time, which focus on urban uprising, don’t capture the irony.

I decided to try myself, posting a piece in an online segment for Orion magazine’s “Place Where You Live” series. You can read the piece here: Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham, Alabama.

Many of the Birmingham Campaign’s iconic photographs were taken on this day, May 3. In memory of them, here are a few pictures from Kelly Ingram Park today:

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Historical marker, Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail, Kelly Ingram Park, Bham, AL. Photograph by Julie Armstrong

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Kelly Ingram Park, a Place of Revolution and Reconciliation, Photograph by Julie Armstrong

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Historical marker commemorating foot soldiers, featuring a familiar image of a police dog attacking Parker High School student Walter Gadsden. Photograph of historical marker by Julie Armstrong.

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Public art work by Ronald McDowell commemorating foot soldiers, based upon the familiar image. Photograph by Julie Armstrong.

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Photograph by Julie Armstrong, taken from inside Kelly Ingram Park. This corner of Sixteenth Street and Sixth Avenue North shows Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, bombed in 1963, killing four girls. The public art shown here, Four Spirits, memorializes those girls. This intersection is also where the photograph of the police dog attacking Walter Gadsden was taken (see Foot Soldiers historical marker, above).

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Close-up of Four Spirits, by Elizabeth MacQueen, Kelly Ingram Park. Photograph by Julie Armstrong.

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Close up of public art work featuring German Shepherd police dogs. Photograph by Julie Armstrong.

Already the German Shepherds rust. When the public art is gone, and the flowers have died, will we remember the ugliness of oppression or the beauty of resistance?

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Historical marker, Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail. Photograph by Julie Armstrong.

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Historical marker, Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail. Photograph by Julie Armstrong.

 

 

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