Anne Whitehouse

Anne Whitehouse

Anne Whitehouse is a writer. She is the author of poetry collections: The Surveyor’s Hand, Blessings and Curses, Bear in Mind, One Sunday Morning, and The Refrain. Her novel Fall Love is also available as an ebook from Feedbooks, Smashwords, Kindle, and iTunes. Her travel articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times. A version of her Los Angeles Times feature, “Memorial to an Uncivil Era: A Personal Journey to Alabama’s new Birmingham Civil Rights Institute” was reprinted in Reading Our Lives: Southern Autobiography Anthology (Auburn University Center for the Arts & Humanities, 1997). Anne Whitehouse was born and grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, graduated from Harvard College, and received an M.F.A. from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. She lives in New York City with her husband and their daughter.

Reflections on the Civil Rights Movement in “the most segregated city”

Birmingham, Alabama was once known as “the most segregated city in America.” It can be argued that the 1963 demonstrations in Birmingham and the fierce resistance they provoked changed white attitudes towards civil rights and ultimately led to the most comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in American history.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which opened in 1992, was built to serve as a monument to–and a resource about–the thousands of people who were dedicated to the philosophy of non-violence and risked their lives in struggles and confrontations all over the South.

It was with a mixture of emotions that I first visited the Institute on Dr. King’s birthday, January 15, 1993. I was born in Birmingham and grew up there during the civil rights era, a white child in Mountain Brook, a nearby all-white suburb. I left many years ago and moved north. But back in 1963, I was a nine-year-old elementary school student, and even though I did not participate in the demonstrations, they have indelibly marked my life.

My first conscious awareness of segregation came when I was about six.