Today was a day to see the important Civil Rights sites around Birmingham. We visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in the morning (https://www.bcri.org) and had a guided tour by a very articulate 11th grader. The Institute was designed to walk the students through the Civil Rights Movement in chronological order with a brief video that gave an overview of the history of African Americans from slavery to the changes that took place starting in the 1940’s. After the video, the first thing the students saw were two water fountains from this time period-one marked Whites Only and the other Colored Only. These artifacts were familiar to the students since they had used an image of this in their presentations on MLK Day at B’nai this past year. Students saw renditions of what a diner would have looked like, riding on a bus, and going to school during this period. We moved through the March to Montgomery and the Children’s March, as well as the Little Rock Nine. There were videos of people who, as young adults, were part of the demonstrations, and they spoke about their experience. The students found it interesting to hear a first-hand account of what these brave people endured for their freedom.
The end of the tour of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute were about atrocities that have taken place since the 1960’s to today. It also included how far we have come and how far we have yet to go.
Our next stop was to the statue of Vulcan, the Roman g-d of fire and forge, which was created by Italian artist, Giuseppe Moratti. The statue is made out of cast iron and sits high above the city of Birmingham. Students enjoyed a picnic lunch and then climbed the tower to look over the city. It was very similar to climbing a lighthouse.
We then had a guest speaker, the Reverend Gwendolyn Webb, speak to the children about her first hand account during the Children’s March. Rev. Webb was a 15 year old girl when she took part of the march and was arrested for her participation. Please see the link for more information about her. Rev. Webb engaged the students with her enthusiastic retelling of how she participated in the march, from preparing for it to coming home after being in jail for 8 days. She sang songs with the students that the children sang while they were marching and while they were in jail. She talked about the way the disc-jockeys used code to communicate with the young people. It was a wonderful experience and Rev. Webb was truly a woman that lived what she preached-love your brother.
For dinner we went to Chabad and enjoyed a spaghetti dinner and brownies for desert. After dinner the students created posters as a way to share what they had learned and what questions remain. The students really enjoyed doing this and then had a silent gallery walk to look at what everyone had written.