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Kelly Ingram Park

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WHERE: Sixth Avenue North at 16th Street Birmingham, AL ( Map  )

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UPDATED: 5.16.17

(205) 254-2391

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Kelly Ingram Park is a four acre park located in between 16th and 17th Streets and 5th and 6th Avenue North in the Birmingham’s Civil Rights District. The park, just outside the doors of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, served as a central staging ground for large-scale demonstrations during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. First known as West End Park, the block was set aside as a park by the Elyton Land Company in the original plan of Birmingham. In the early days the park featured a stone grotto. The park was also the venue for some of the early football games featuring the University of Alabama against what would become Auburn University in 1902, 1904, and 1905. It was renamed in 1932 for local firefighter Osmond Kelly Ingram, who was the first sailor in the United States Navy to be killed in World War I.

Civil Rights Movement Reverends Martin Luther King, Jr. and Fred Shuttlesworth directed the organized boycotts and protests of 1963 which centered on Kelly Ingram Park. It was here, during the first week of May 1963 that Birmingham police and firemen, under orders from Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor, confronted demonstrators, many of them children, first with mass arrests and then with police dogs and firehoses. Images from those confrontations, broadcast nationwide, spurred a public outcry which turned the nation’s attention to the struggle for racial equality and helped insure the passage of Civil Rights laws and bring an end to public segregation.

In 1992 it was completely renovated and rededicated as “A Place of Revolution and Reconciliation.” to coincide with the opening of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, an interpretive museum and research center, which adjoins the park to the west. The park is the setting for several pieces of sculpture related to the Civil Rights Movement. Besides a central fountain and commemorative statues of Dr King, Rev. Shuttlesworth and other heroes of the movement, there are three powerfully charged installations by artist James Drake which flank a circular “Freedom Walk” and bring the visitor inside the portrayals of terror and sorrow of the 1963 confrontations. A limestone sculpture by Raymond Kasky depicts three ministers, John Thomas Porter, Nelson H. Smith and A. D. King, kneeling in prayer. One corner of the park remembers other “unsung heroes”‘ of Birmingham’s underrepresented.

Currently the park hosts several local family festivals and cultural and entertainment events throughout the year. The Civil Rights Institute provides audio-tour guides for the park which feature remembrances by many of the figures directly involved in the confrontations. Urban Impact, Inc. also provides guided tours by appointment. (information from bhamwiki.com)