‘Voices of Alabama’ tells civil rights stories online

Published 10:17 am Wednesday, September 25, 2019

“Joyce O’Neal can still hear the horses’ hooves on the steps of her church on Bloody Sunday. Nelson Malden recalls Martin Luther King, Jr. stopping by his barbershop for a weekly haircut. Valda Harris Montgomery remembers more than 30 beaten Freedom Riders finding sanctuary in her childhood,” proclaims a press release from the World Monuments Fund (WMF) heralding the launch of its “Voices of Alabama” project, which brings the stories of the Alabama civil rights era to life online.

The video-focused oral history platform, which launches today, is an interactive digital project organized through a collaboration between the WMF, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) and the Alabama African-American Civil Rights Heritage Sites Consortium.

The project tells stories from 20 historical sites of worship, lodging and civic engagement in Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma and the Black Belt that were integral in the Civil Rights Movement in the state and all the way back to Reconstruction.

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“What makes the 20 sites of the Alabama African-American Civil Rights Heritage Sites Consortium so remarkable are the world-changing events that happened within their walls,” said WMF CEO-elect Bénédicte de Montlaur. “Preservation of both these places and their stories is crucial so that people around the world can continue to learn the acts of courage that took place during the African-American fight for freedom. We are excited to bring greater visibility to these important cultural heritage sites and the dedicated individuals who continue to steward them.”

The online platform, paid for with the support from Jack Shear and the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation, as well as Friends of Heritage Preservation and an anonymous donor, gives users the opportunity to explore each of the historic sites through video, images, timelines and map content.

On Oct. 1, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-AL, and award-winning journalist Carol Jenkins, among others, will speak at The Times Center in New York City to celebrate the launch of the new platform.

“Growing up in Selma, I was surrounded from an early age by stories about the Civil Rights Movement,” Sewell said. “These were not the stories told in history books, but lesser-known stories of everyday people acting with extraordinary bravery. Knowing what the people of my community were capable of provided me the strength, resilience and inspiration to pursue my own dreams and I know that stories shared in ‘Voices of Alabama’ will do the same for countless others. I’m so pleased that the voices and stories of our district are being given this national platform because they are stories that need to be heard.”

To learn more and explore the platform, visit VoicesOfAlabama.org.