About Birmingham Stories


Parker High School student Walter Gadsden being attacked by dogs. The New York Times, May 4, 1963. Bill Hudson, photographer.

Birmingham Stories is a series of essays about everyday people and places in the iconic civil rights movement city where I was born. Photographs such as the one taken here freeze Birmingham in memory at a specific place and time: 16th Street and 6th Avenue North in 1963. What happens when one looks beyond the frames of familiar images to examine intersections that are geographical, metaphorical, and even personal?


Detail, AAA Map of Birmingham, with author’s proposed walking, driving, and kayaking routes highlighted. Photograph by Julie Armstrong.

The series begins with a walking tour of Birmingham’s civil rights memorial complex, branching out to other routes, other locations, and people connected to them along the way. Some are famous, others are not; some are alive, others have died. They remind us how the civil rights movement continues “moving” through our lives in ways we often do not recognize. They reveal a city far more nuanced than its historical reputation suggests. They show us the varied ways human beings counter the ugliness of oppression with acts of beauty, dignity, and courage.