Birmingham's biggest economic engine and employer released its plans for commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1963 civil rights movement next year.
UAB was only known as the University of Alabama extension center and the medical school.
But that year, while the civil rights chaos was unfolding around it, what would become UAB was also going through enormous change and it's those 2 parallel 50 years of history the city and school will celebrate next year.
When Mayor Bell started as a student on this campus the idea he could one day be mayor?
"The life that I'm leading as a key leader in this community was just a pipe dream to so many people," Bell said Tuesday. "But because this institution gave me an opportunity to get an education and so many others to get an education, we lead better lives because of it."
Bell credits UAB for integrating itself without the threat of federal action even as the city around it struggled to chart the same path to equality.
And while churches were being bombed in 1963, the roots of what would become the biggest employer in Birmingham were taking hold.
"We had remarkable leadership that knew we had to take these steps if we were going to continue to allow UAB to flourish, and if we were going to allow Birmingham to be all it could be," said Dr. Richard Marchase, UAB's interim President.
"The development of this institution as a world class medical facility and educational institution would not have occurred if we still had the shackles of segregation on our shoulders and on our backs," Bell said.
To celebrate that year of change, UAB will host a series of events including:
- An MLK Day concert with a new work written by a UAB music professor.
- A black history month lecture from rapper Common.
- Premiere several student-made films celebrating what happened here and around the city in 1963.
"Because as Birmingham goes, so goes the nation, and we, UAB, are one with Birmingham," Dr. Marchase said.
For more information, visit http://www.uab.edu/50yearsforward.
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