The Latest

The AC Digs Into: Alabama Civil Rights Sites For Martin Luther King Day

January 12, 2018

This Martin Luther King Day it is important to reflect on our nation’s history, and the memory of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This past year, World Monuments Fund (WMF) paid homage to the importance of the Civil Rights Movement with its selection of the Alabama Civil Rights Sites, as part of their 2018 World Monuments Watch. The Antiquities Coalition’s Executive Director Tess Davis has served on the Selection Committee since 2014, and we sat down with her to talk about this year’s selections.


What is World Monuments Watch?

Since 1965, WMF has worked to conserve cultural sites, ranging from ancient wonders to modern masterpieces. An important aspect of this work is World Monuments Watch, a biennial listing that brings much needed attention to at-risk heritage, as well as the broader issues that threaten it. Sites are nominated by people around the globe and then narrowed down by WMF staff with guidance from a selection committee.

Over the last two decades, the Watch has helped to raise awareness for around 800 sites in 135 countries, and, it is solely responsible for the some of those sites still being here today.

What can you tell us about serving on the 2018 Selection Committee?

This is my second time serving on the Selection Committee, and it was not only a great honor, but also a great opportunity to learn more about our shared heritage and the challenges facing it from leading preservationists and other experts. Of course, there are so many deserving sites in the world, and it was hard to narrow them down. This year, in the end, the Watch included 25 different sites in over 30 countries.

Alabama Civil Rights
The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, headquarters for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 2017. Photo: Library of Congress


Alabama Civil Rights
Old Ship A.M.E. Zion Church in Montgomery, a historic meeting place for black leaders, 2017. Photo: Laura Ewen Blokker, Southeast Preservation

Of the 2018 Watch’s 25 sites, one was actually a collection of places, collectively referred to as the Alabama Civil Rights Sites. Can you tell us more about these?

With this listing, World Monuments Watch has recognized specific locations across the state of Alabama where critical moments in the U.S. Civil Rights movement took place in the 1950s and 60s. These sites include museums, churches, public spaces, and private homes, some of which are already recognized landmarks, while others have yet to get the attention they deserve.

The nomination was led by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a museum and research center, with the hope that it will reinforce its important work.

Why did you, and the rest of the committee, feel it was important to include these sites on the 2018 Watch?

As an American from the South, I strongly supported the nomination of these sites, as did everyone on the committee to whom I spoke. Their inclusion will help to preserve an important chapter of history, while also having a concrete, positive impact on the local communities. Finally, given the ongoing discussion about the fate of monuments throughout the South, I think it’s important for us all to remember how diverse the South’s heritage is. I encourage everyone to learn more about these sites— and all of those on the 2018 Watch—and see them in person if you have the opportunity. We have much to learn from them and the history they represent.

See the full World Monuments Watch here.