The Civil Rights Memorial is a memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, to 41 people who died in the struggle for the equal and integrated treatment of all people, regardless of race, during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The memorial is sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The names included in the memorial belong to those who died between 1954 and 1968. Those dates were chosen because in 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in schools was unlawful and 1968 is the year of Martin Luther King's assassination. The monument was created by Maya Lin, who is best known for creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Civil Rights Memorial was dedicated in 1989.
The concept of Maya Lin's design is based on the soothing and healing effect of water. It was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.'s paraphrase "... we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. ...", from the "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. This passage in King's speech is a direct reference to Amos 5:24, as translated in the American Standard Version of the Bible. The memorial is a fountain in the form of an asymmetric inverted stone cone. A film of water flows over the base of the cone, which contains the 41 names included. It is possible to touch the smooth film of water and temporarily alter the surface film, which quickly returns to smoothness. As such, the memorial represents the aspirations of the American Civil Rights Movement to end legal segregation.
The memorial is located downtown at 400 Washington Avenue in an open plaza in front of the Civil Rights Memorial Center, which was formerly the offices of the Southern Poverty Law Center and which moved across the street into a new building in 2001. The memorial may be visited freely 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Civil Rights Memorial Center offers guided group tours lasting approximately one hour. Tours are available by appointment, Monday through Saturday.
The memorial is only a few blocks from other historic sites, including the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the Alabama State Capitol, the Alabama Department of Archives and History, the corners where in 1955 Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks boarded buses on which they would later refuse to give up their seats, and the Rosa Parks Library and Museum.
"The Forgotten" are 74 men and women who are identified in a display at the Civil Rights Memorial Center. These names were not inscribed on the Memorial because there was insufficient information about their deaths at the time the Memorial was created. However, it is thought that these people people died as a result of racially motivated violence between 1952 and 1968.