More life-sized signs of major events from the Civil Rights Movement recently hit the street in the city of Birmingham, Alabama. The new signs will be the latest additions to the Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail. “Taking History to the Streets” is the major theme of the City’s three-year public project. It puts tourists on the streets and at locations across the city where major events in the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement actually occurred.

The trail began with the pilot program that centered on Downtown Birmingham’s

historic districts. Officials began installing the first set of signs, “The March to Government,” around historic Kelly Ingram Park last year. The now-complete sign series traces the non-violent marches from the park to City Hall, where Blacks demanded an end to state-approved segregation.

The second set of 22 new signs, “The March to Retail,” commemorates Blacks’ efforts to gain equal access and equal employment in public facilities and at private businesses. Signs in this series also start at Kelly Ingram Park and end in the City’s historic Retail District, and they have just been installed. The third set of signs highlights 35 places of significance in the Birmingham Movement. Officials will install this sign series throughout the City Center by this month.

Later this year, the trail’s second phase will be at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. Displays there will include audio/visual elements and signs that act as the gateway into Birmingham and as an introduction to the Trail. City and airport officials renamed the airport in 2009 to honor the Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, whose leadership sustained the Birmingham Movement from 1956 to 1963. Shuttlesworth invited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to organize and bring national attention to the 1963 demonstrations in Birmingham.

These signs, as well as the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and Shuttlesworth’s Bethel Baptist Church – as well as many other cultural sites in Birmingham – are part of Alabama’s larger Civil Rights Heritage Trail. The state Trail ties together all the sites in cities across Alabama that played key roles in the larger American Civil Rights struggle. These culturally significant sites have become major tourist attractions that contribute to Alabama’s $9 billion tourism industry.

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