The park, just outside the doors of the 16th Street Baptist Church, served as a central staging ground for large-scale demonstrations during the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
Reverends Martin Luther King, Jr., James Bevel, and Fred Shuttlesworth of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference directed the organized boycotts and protests of 1963 which centered on Kelly Ingram Park. It was here, during the first week of May 1963, that Birmingham police and firemen, under orders from Public Safety Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor, confronted demonstrators, many of them children and high school students, first with mass arrests and then with police dogs and firehoses. Images from those confrontations, broadcast nationwide, spurred a public outcry which turned the nation’s attention to the struggle for racial equality. The demonstrations in Birmingham brought city leaders to agree to an end of public segregation and helped to ensure the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.