BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — The state of Alabama this year is working to draw attention to events that cast it in a shameful light a half-century ago, events that led to sweeping gains in civil rights across the country.
The Alabama Tourism Department and the Alabama Department of Archives and History are helping promote the 50th anniversary of those events and explain their significance.
In Birmingham and across the state in 1963, racial intolerance and resistance to integration clashed with the fierce determination of those fighting for equality.
Brutality in defense of the segregationist status quo — the Birmingham church bombing that killed four girls, the use of police dogs and fire hoses on children and peaceful demonstrators, the mass arrests — helped change minds and build support for landmark civil rights legislation.
State officials say this year it's important to revisit that history.
Gov. Robert Bentley last year decided to provide $100,000 to help commemorate the 50th anniversary after meeting with Birmingham Mayor William Bell. The money from the state Tourism Department went to the Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau to help market the 50th anniversary, said Lee Sentell, the state tourism director.
The Tourism Department's 220-plus page vacation guide for 2013, Sweet Home Alabama, features the Birmingham Civil Rights District as "Attraction of the Year" in a two-page spread that also lists events, attractions and performances planned to commemorate the anniversary.
The guide, which can be viewed online or ordered at no cost, carries a full-page ad from the Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau with the headline: "1963, The Year the World Woke Up."
Sentell said his department is buying a full-page ad in the April issue of Southern Living magazine at a cost of about $75,000. The ad will include a picture of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, site of the fatal bombing.
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