From Birmingham to Belfast: The Influence of the American Civil Rights Movement on the Struggle for Justice in Northern Ireland

- Metress, Christopher
The modern civil rights movement was born in Alabama in the 1950s. This fight for justice transformed America and has inspired freedom struggles around the globe. One of the first places where this inspiration took hold was in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s during “The Troubles.”

Turning to the lessons of Montgomery, Little Rock, Birmingham, and Selma, the leaders of the Catholic civil rights struggle adopted a strategy of nonviolent direct action, believing that widespread peaceful demonstrations would have the same moral suasion in Northern Ireland as they did in the United States. The debt this latter movement owed to its American roots continues to be recognized today in Northern Ireland via murals, monuments, museums, and public ceremonies.

Focusing on the cities of Belfast and Derry, this presentation will employ still images, video clips, and sound recordings to show that the leaders and foot soldiers of the Alabama-born civil rights movement still inspire people the world over.