01/22/16

About Birmingham Stories

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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?

bham-map

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.