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Birmingham Civil Rights

Communities

Birmingham Civil Rights
Birmingham, Alabama

The 16th Street Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church, and Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church in Birmingham, AL are icons of the 1950s to 1960s non-violent African American struggle for human rights.  These churches were centers of the faith-based, non-violent, direct action movement that wrought dramatic changes in federal legislation to overcome segregation and ensure the rights of citizenship to all Americans. The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s in Alabama was a highly organized movement led by pastors and centered within African-American churches. The movement culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

These three Birmingham churches were placed on the US World Heritage Tentative List in 2007.  Heritage Landscapes was asked to consult with the Birmingham Historical Society (BHS), preparers of the Tentative List nomination, to review the materials for the Birmingham civil rights churches and to advise on the planning process in preparation for a future nomination to World Heritage.  The World Heritage Convention was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972 to recognize properties of outstanding and universal value.  Cultural, natural, or mixed properties having outstanding universal value that transcends national boundaries and is of importance to all of humanity are eligible for World Heritage inscription. The global degree of recognition and cooperation around the issue of World Heritage and outstanding universal values, indicated by support and participation of nearly 200 countries, makes the Convention the most widely ascribed international legal instrument for global protection of cultural and natural heritage.  It is an important vehicle for shared respect of cultural and natural heritage, increased global understanding, and peace.

Beginning in 2008, Heritage Landscapes worked with BHS to prepare a preliminary planning study toward World Heritage nomination.  The firm examined Birmingham’s nomination through a number of lenses, including potential World Heritage resources, local preservation overlays, National Historic Landmark districts, and other current protections. A detailed listing of recommended protections and next steps set forth action items toward Birmingham World Heritage.  These steps included implementing a visitor vehicular wayfinding system; installing guides for visitor pedestrian routes and interpretive elements at civil rights sites; shaping a stewardship plan; initiating a world heritage management entity; and preparing a civil rights Works Heritage nomination and detailed dossier.  All of these steps and issues will contribute to a comprehensive, integrated planning effort for World Heritage inscription.

Client:
Birmingham Historical Society

Project:
Preliminary Preservation Planning, World Heritage Nomination, 2009

Project Credits:
Heritage Landscapes, Preservation Landscape Architects & Planners