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Birmingham Civil Rights District national monument dedication marks city's place in history

Published: Apr. 16, 2017 at 2:34 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 16, 2017 at 6:26 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham is once again etching its place in history. On Saturday, community leaders and members of the National Park System unveiled the  Birmingham's Civil Rights District national monument.

"To see this become a reality today so history can be preserved for many generations to come is truly a great day," said Birmingham City Councilor Jay Roberson.

It's a day many didn't think would come, but are rejoicing that it is now here.

"People are here from all over the world right here in Birmingham, Alabama because they want to know the history of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham and what Birmingham meant to the Civil Rights Movement, what Birmingham meant to society as a whole. So you're talking about hundreds and thousands, if not millions of people who will now converge in Birmingham for generations to come to enjoy the history that we have to share," continued Roberson.

President Barack Obama signed a presidential proclamation designating the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument back in January.

The monument incorporates about four blocks of the city's downtown. It includes the old A.G. Gaston Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders planned the Birmingham campaign.

It's a place where Myrna Jackson, Civil Rights icon and activist, helped galvanize the demonstrations in the early 1960s.

"To come together on an occasion like this to express yourself, I think it's fantastic," said Jackson. "You see people smile and shake your hand that you used to couldn't touch. You used to couldn't look in the eye. There was a time when blacks couldn't look whites into the eyes we had to look down. Now so many things have changed, but we have a long way to go. We're not there yet, but we're on the way."

Jackson says the national monument is a start. She says it could serve as a place where others can learn and work towards improving race relations.

"We need to learn more about each other and then we will be able to understand a lot more things and that we don't understand now," continued Jackson.

Birmingham City Councilor Sheila Tyson agreed.

"We got to let the young people know exactly what happened here in the City of Birmingham in order to build a brighter future where this will not happen again," said Tyson.

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