Birmingham Civil Rights, Birmingham AL

Client: Birmingham Historical Society

The 16th Street Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church, in Birmingham, AL, are focus points of the 1950s to 1960s non-violent African American struggle for human rights.  The churches and surrounding neighborhoods were centers of the faith-based, non-violent, direct, action movement that enabled the federal actions to overcome segregation seeking to ensure the rights of citizenship to African Americans.  Placed on the US World Heritage Tentative List in 2007, two Birmingham churches focused the local actions. Heritage Landscapes consulted with the Birmingham Historical Society (BHS), preparers of the WH Tentative List nomination, in 2009 to study documents and sites that captured the Birmingham Civil Rights actions toward an enlarged nomination to the World Heritage (WH) List. Heritage Landscapes work:

  • Summarized WH listing process, tangible and intangible benefits
  • Identified three neighborhoods holding Civil Rights landscapes of significance: City Center, Dynamite Hill and Collegeville with Reverend Shuttlesworth’s Bethel Baptist church
  • Noted the importance of the Birmingham Jail
  • Provided details of current protections for this identified Civil Rights heritage
  • Developed preliminary Civil Rights heritage assets mapping and statements
  • Listed recommended protections and action items toward Birmingham World Heritage

Triggered in part by the actions in Alabama, the Civil Rights movement culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  We examined Birmingham’s nomination through several lenses to develop a detailed listing of recommended protections, next steps and future actions toward advancement of Birmingham World Heritage. These steps included comprehensive recognition of neighborhood areas beyond the two churches, implementation of wayfinding systems for pedestrian and vehicles; stewardship planning; initiation of a world heritage management entity; and eventual preparation of a collaborative Civil Rights World Heritage nomination with other sites in the Civil Rights struggle.


Birmingham Civil Rights World Heritage Sites Preliminary Planning Study, for the Alabama Civil Rights Churches United States Tentative List, 2009


Heritage Landscapes


"World Heritage inscription of specific properties in Birmingham will reinforce the city’s position at the nexus of the Civil Rights Movement and the enduring value of these places of struggle."