Alabama Life & Culture
Alabama civil rights trail gets national exposure in Smithsonian
State tourism director Lee Sentell stands with a copy of a new ad featured on the back cover of the January-February 2023 issue of Smithsonian magazine. (Photo by Greg Garrison/AL.com)
By Greg Garrison | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Alabama State Tourism Department bought a full-page advertisement on the back cover of the Smithsonian magazine’s first issue of 2023, touting Birmingham’s 60th anniversary of the civil rights marches and events of 1963.
The state paid for a regional ad in the South, but instead the Smithsonian gave it a full run to its national circulation of about 400,000, said Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department. “I’m going to send Lonnie Bunch, the head of the Smithsonian, a thank you note,” Sentell said.
Sentell showed off the ad while speaking Thursday to Central Alabama’s Hospitality, Attractions, and Business Association at the Westin Hotel in Birmingham.
The ad features a photo of a U.S. National Park ranger speaking to tourists on the front steps of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, where four girls were killed in a racially motivated bombing on Sept. 15, 1963.
“We are putting together a video to give the Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau, video from historical footage of what happened in Birmingham 60 years ago,” Sentell said. “Within five minutes, people can watch historical footage of Bull Connor, Martin Luther King, Fred Shuttlesworth and others. People may come to Birmingham and say, ‘I don’t really know what happened in Birmingham but I know it was a big deal.’”
That display is not up yet, but Birmingham has plenty of plans for commemoration.
At the introduction of what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964, President Kennedy said “But for Birmingham, we would not be here today.”
“Because of what Birmingham did, with the leadership of Fred Shuttlesworth and Martin Luther King, they changed Birmingham, and that showed everybody else, ‘We can change this,’” Sentell said.
Sentell helped launch the Civil Rights Trail Guide and web sitein June 2021 that has helped steer civil rights tourists to important historical sites in Alabama.
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