Doing More in Birmingham

Celebrating progress – and doing more to promote the future of equality

On a quiet Sunday morning in September of 1963, the world changed suddenly. A bomb ripped through the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. In that terrible instant, The Civil Rights Movement could no longer be ignored. Not in Birmingham, not in the U.S. and not around the world. America would change, offering more equal opportunities for all citizens.

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement was important to Regions. Our company headquarters is just a few blocks from where the tragic bombing occurred. That’s one reason, along with our commitment to diversity and inclusion, Regions played a role in the city of Birmingham’s Empowerment Week, sponsoring a number of “50 Years Forward” events.

Regions also took the opportunity to gather notable leaders and host the discussion “Beyond Suffering and Suffrage: The Past, Present and Future of International and Civil Human Rights.” The panel was moderated by “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Gayle King, and the discussion was broadcast in its entirety on C-SPAN. In 90 compelling minutes, covered by the national media, viewers got a glimpse into how far our country has come, and how far it has to go, in terms of human and civil rights.

Panel member Dr. Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State and also an advisor to the Regions board of directors, was a child at the time. She was attending a nearby church that fateful day and felt the shock of the blast that took the lives of four little girls. She said from that day forward there was no refuge for anyone, regardless of skin color or social standing.

In 2001, U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, also a panelist, successfully prosecuted members of the Ku Klux Klan responsible for the terrorist act. Doug said, “People often see Birmingham as black and white. But we are a city of full, living color.”

Panel member and retired U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon recounted demonstrating during the Civil Rights Movement and finding Dr. Martin Luther King’s sermons “absolutely mesmerizing.” Once, he was arrested for drinking out of a “whites only” water fountain. “I must have been afraid,” Judge Clemon said, “but I didn’t realize it.”

At Regions, we are proud to honor those who stood up for equal rights 50 years ago. Events such as “50 Years Forward” and Empowerment Week remind all of us how important the struggle was and how we must continue to embrace diversity more than ever.

Watch the Moving Forward by Celebrating Progress and Remembering the Past video

From left to right: Regions head of Corporate Social Responsibility Lajuana Bradford, retired U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon, former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones.