Birmingham, Alabama is home to many important landmarks from the Civil Rights Movement. The most important place to see is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a massive interpretive museum and research center downtown.
Opened in 1992, the Smithsonian affiliate’s tours start in the atrium, where guides share important information on the facility and tell you where to begin.
What to See at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
The experience starts with a film that sets the scene for the time period in which the movement came to Birmingham. The back wall then opens up into the museum, where the “White” and “Colored” water fountains are the first things you see.
The rest of the museum showcases events by the year with displays from Rosa Parks’ bus journey, Martin Luther King Jr.’s time in the Birmingham Jail, and even the KKK’s involvement in the state.
All of the artifacts have been donated over the years. The institute also has three different special galleries as well as traveling exhibits on modern civil rights movements worldwide and a research library.
There are also a number of additional stops included in the Birmingham Civil Rights District is 16th Street Baptist Church, where three girls were killed by a bomber. Kelly Ingram Park, across from the institute, is where protests took place and now sculptures demonstrate the violence the police inflicted on the citizens.
From the park, you can follow the walking path to the Birmingham Jail and other landmarks like the Fourth Avenue Business District and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame located in the Carver Theatre.
Tips for Visiting the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is located at 520 Sixteenth Street North, Birmingham Alabama 35203. They’re open for tours from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 1 pm to 5 pm.
Admission is $15 for adults, $5 for seniors and children, and $6 for students. On Sundays, admission is by donation only and first come, first served. Discounts are available for AAA members and active military. Free parking is available behind the building off Fifteenth Street North but is limited. There is also street parking.
Where to Eat Near the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
A few steps across Ingram Park from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is Drake’s Courthouse Cafe, a local favorite known for its cheeseburger. You can also get omelets and sandwiches made with Boar’s Head meats and cheeses.
The Pizitz Food Hall is Birmingham’s first food hall, with 12 stalls and diverse cuisines including wings, tacos, pho, and dumplings. For food with a local emphasis, Urban Cookhouse sources ingredients from nearby farms in its
Where to Stay Near the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Part of the Autograph Collection, Elyton Hotel is in a beautiful historic building with stylish rooms, an onsite restaurant, and a rooftop bar. John Hand Club Hotel is a membership club with six hotel rooms on the upper floors of a 1912 building.
The Redmont Hotel is part of the Curio Collection by Hilton (review here) and was one of the last places that Hank Williams stayed before his death. The renovated space has a rooftop bar, a coffee shop and restaurant, and modern rooms.