YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel
50th Anniversary Civil Rights Movement Birmingham
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s "Letter From Birmingham Jail," and other pivotal events in the struggle for civil rights. I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa at the height of Apartheid. Some forty years ago I made Birmingham, Alabama my new home. What ironic twist of fate had brought me these two cities marked by racial strife?
South African flag painted face
Some forty years later the two halves of my life came together. Soon after I published my memoir of growing up under Apartheid, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute asked my husband and myself to help prepare Birmingham students for an exchange visit to Johannesburg, South Africa. It was truly gratifying to meet with our city’s students, and then later to celebrate the arrival of the students from Johannesburg, South Africa. Both groups observed that they were surprised by historical similarities between the Civil Rights struggle in the United States, and Freedom struggle to end Apartheid.
Students at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Welcoming Exchange Students from Johannesburg
Mpho Mpotoane from Johannesburg told us, "Our history and your history they aren't that different. The events took place with aggression and the youth was involved. In the United States the great leader was Martin Luther King Jr. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela.” And can you believe that I met three young exchange students who had just graduated from Athlone Girls High—the same school I had graduated form? When I attend that school, it would have been absolutely impossible, completely illegal for those young ladies to enroll at my segregated all-white school.
Zulu Drummer performing at Mandela Day, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
This year, official Birmingham is embracing this anniversary with museum exhibitions, concerts, plays, symposiums, festivals, workshops and the National Conference on Civil Rights. Let’s hope that students and citizens in our city and our nation will honor the legacy of those who were part of the civil rights struggle by building a more just and peaceful society.
Celebrating Mandela Day at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 2011
For Information See:
Birmingham, Al, Embraces its Complex History
Events Celebrating 50th Anniversary of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
Behind The Walled Garden of Apartheid
Birmingham—A Line in The Sand