Experiencing the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute with Kids
By Meg Brunson
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is dedicated to race relations and the fight for civil rights throughout history – a fight that continues today. This is an experience that every American needs to have, especially those who think they don’t need it. As a white mom of a bi-racial child, I’ve tried my hardest to be educated and informed, and this visit made me painfully aware of how much I STILL don’t know. These are difficult topics to face with our children – but they are too important to ignore (like my educational upbringing did).
The museum’s self-guided tours begin with a movie that then guides you through a comparison of what life was like for whites and blacks during segregation. There were visual representations of the inequalities from education to occupation and even infant mortality rates. This sparked a lot of conversations about “why.” Questions that are hard even for me to understand.
The most profound moment for me was that my oldest daughter had wandered ahead a bit. She had entered an exhibit called “Confrontation” and when I looked at her, she was positioned in front of a Ku Klux Klan costume, reading about the Klan. At 12, this is the first time she’s learned about the KKK – and it’s a tough topic for me to explain. I am grateful for having the Civil Rights Institute to support that discussion/lesson.
We learned about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. The Civil Rights leaders I was taught about when I grew up… but also people like Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth – a huge player in the Civil Rights movement whom (I am embarrassed to admit) I had never heard of before!
After exploring all that the museum had to offer we made time to explore Kelly Ingram Park, across the street from the museum. The park was the cite of many civil rights protests and currently contains numerous statues that tell the story of the civil rights movements that happened in that park. The park is free to visit – and I definitely encourage it – but the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is an experience that cannot be skipped.
Tips for An Amazing Visit
- Parking – there is a lot behind the museum that offers parking for cars and busses/RVs. There was plenty of parking on the day of our visit, and there is also on-street parking surrounding the museum if the lot is full.
- If you carry a large purse or backpack of any size you may be asked to lock it in a secured locker during your visit. There was a minor cost ($2 if I remember correctly) and you leave your driver’s license in exchange for a key.
- There is a playground right next to the museum if you need a place to picnic and play for a bit during your visit. We did not see food for sale nearby, so consider packing a lunch.
- Across the street is Kelly Ingram Park – I highly recommend exploring the park and the statues which guide you through the historic significance of that park.
- The content is raw and real. The video introduction uses historic video which uses racial slurs including the N* word. Exhibits include the KKK, and violence. That being said, I did not feel that any of the content was inappropriate for my kids - it was all a teaching experience!
Learn more about the current exhibits at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and start planning your visit at bcri.org - then, read about some of the other adventures we're having on our Year-Long Road Trip!
© 2019 Meg Brunson
All opinions expressed are my own. See more on Instagram!
Meg is a mommy blogger, Facebook marketer, and much more. She is a mom to four daughters who live full-time in an RV exploring the US! As a former Facebook employee, Meg remains a Facebook addict and handles KidsOutAndAbout.com's Social Media Marketing in addition to providing freelance services for other small businesses on how to best leverage Facebook as a part of their marketing strategy. Meg also hosts the FamilyPreneur Podcast, a podcast for parent entrepreneurs raising entrepreneurial children. Learn more about Meg at MegBrunson.com!