BIRMINGHAM, Ala.- Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton today announced the designation of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., as a National Historic Landmark. Norton made the announcement during a signing ceremony at the church.
"Our National Historic Landmarks help to preserve a legacy of where we have been as a nation and the mistakes we have made as a people," Norton said. "It is through these historic sites that we preserve and share our history with future generations."
The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church served as an important part of the African-American community during the Civil Rights Movement. It was used as a meeting place and to coordinate mass rallies for local and national voting rights, and equal rights activities. It is most notable for the Sept. 15, 1963, bombing of the church that killed four teenage girls. This tragic act shocked the nation and galvanized the Civil Rights Movement. The church bombing followed by the death of President Kennedy two months later, contributed to a tremendous ground-swell of emotions that helped to ensure passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
"Understanding our history empowers us to keep alive its achievements," Norton said. "Our history has taught us many lessons. One of the most important lessons learned is that peace and justice and equality are indivisibly one."
The National Historic Landmark designation is the highest such recognition accorded by our nation to historic properties. These special places are the actual sites where significant historical events occurred, or where prominent Americans worked or lived, and represent the ideas that shaped our nation. Fewer than 2,500 historic places carry the title of National Historic Landmark.