"I didn’t sign on to be a federal judge to render moral decisions. I signed on as a federal judge to follow the law. I never looked on any desegregation case with the moral standards in mind. I wasn’t hired to be a moral judge. I wasn’t hired to be a preacher or an evangelist. I’m hired to apply the law."

– Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr., recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

 
home-header-bw.jpg

GLOBAL forum for FREEDOM AND JUSTICE

An international gathering place focused on leadership, education, innovation and understanding, placed upon the sacred soil that gave rise to the modern Civil Rights Movement. 

 

OUR INSPIRATION

In the autumn of 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, a local seamstress and two young men new to the city, one the minister of a small congregation and the other a newly appointed federal judge, were placed center stage, destined to change the arc of history. The call for social justice, civic engagement and courageous leadership continues today, with the Global Forum for Freedom and Justice serving as an international educational resource for current and future generations to build upon the courage of Rosa Parks, the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the decisions of Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. The principles of freedom and justice are the common threads of our American experience; without one, we cannot experience the other. 

 
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. , a Baptist minister and activist who led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped organize the nonviolent 1963 protest in Birmingham, Alabama and the March on Washington where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize “for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance.” He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister and activist who led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped organize the nonviolent 1963 protest in Birmingham, Alabama and the March on Washington where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize “for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance.” He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.

Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. , a pioneering United States District Judge in Montgomery, Alabama whose landmark civil rights rulings helped end segregation of African Americans in the South. With unblinking moral courage, Judge Johnson upheld the Constitution and the law, insisting all Americans be treated equally regardless of color. He served as a federal judge for 44 years — and lived to see centuries of oppressive customs overturned, and the state and region he loved transformed. Judge Frank Johnson is acclaimed as “one of the greatest heroes of the 20th century.”

Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr., a pioneering United States District Judge in Montgomery, Alabama whose landmark civil rights rulings helped end segregation of African Americans in the South. With unblinking moral courage, Judge Johnson upheld the Constitution and the law, insisting all Americans be treated equally regardless of color. He served as a federal judge for 44 years — and lived to see centuries of oppressive customs overturned, and the state and region he loved transformed. Judge Frank Johnson is acclaimed as “one of the greatest heroes of the 20th century.”

Rosa Parks , the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” was one of the most important citizens of the 20th century. Mrs. Parks was a seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama when, in December 1955, she refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white passenger. The bus driver had her arrested. Her act sparked a citywide boycott of the bus system by African Americans that lasted more than a year. The boycott raised an unknown clergyman, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to national prominence. Mrs. Parks’ example remains “an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere.”

Rosa Parks, the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” was one of the most important citizens of the 20th century. Mrs. Parks was a seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama when, in December 1955, she refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white passenger. The bus driver had her arrested. Her act sparked a citywide boycott of the bus system by African Americans that lasted more than a year. The boycott raised an unknown clergyman, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to national prominence. Mrs. Parks’ example remains “an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere.”

 

OUR global CALLING

Turn on the news, pick up a paper or scan the latest headlines on your social media feeds and it becomes immediately apparent that we cannot sit idly by while the lessons of the past are challenged on a daily basis. A review of the international landscape reveals the need for a nonpolitical presentation of the historic and ongoing struggle for human rights. Currently, no modern facility exists that combines an educational and interpretive center for human dignity, mutual respect and equal justice with an academic institution that provides students with leadership skills for the 21st century. This review has become a call to action for the creation of an international Forum in Birmingham to serve the citizenry of the world. More than a mere destination, the Forum will be a catalyst for connecting cities around the world to new ideas and insights concerning human and civil rights. As the gateway to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, and with the Forum's ability to connect students, teachers, and scholars through a global digital humanities initiative, our impact will be felt far beyond the United States. 

 

OUR mission

The Global Forum for Freedom and Justice will be a groundbreaking institution in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, that links the cultural anchors and legacies of the city’s renowned civil rights history with exploring contemporary issues that exist today — while activating and inspiring emerging leaders from around the world. The Forum will be an interdisciplinary center of public engagement and dialogue, supporting scholarship, research, community outreach, and digital initiatives grounded in innovative visual storytelling and immersive exhibits. By encouraging a deeper understanding of the past, the Global Forum for Freedom and Justice will inspire and equip current and future generations to become catalysts for active change.

The Forum will serve as a dynamic resource and creative hub, offering grants for institutions as well as individual research fellowships, residencies, and scholarships for outstanding candidates in the arts and humanities, science and technology, law and public policy, medicine, public health, entrepreneurship, education, military, athletics, and in the faith community, while encouraging greater outreach and dialogue with the judicial and law enforcement sectors. A global fellowship program focusing on youth and emerging activists will enable participants to join the Forum for semester, summer, or week-long programs – emphasizing strategic and creative thinking, character development, personal empowerment, imagination and innovation, team building, and problem-solving – across issues of contemporary leadership. A particular education initiative will introduce elementary and secondary school groups to these problem-solving exercises as part of their wider civics and social studies, arts, and technology curriculum.

The Forum’s Rotunda Theater, a centerpiece for its public programs, will serve as a Town Hall space for the city-at-large, a public stage to exchange and generate ideas through constructive discussion and debate. The theater will be a technological marvel, with a fully-immersive projection capability and a state-of-the-art system that creates a theatrical environment at any time of day. This enables the space to present a high-level “orientation experience” highlighting the Forum’s mission and global connections. The theater will also host film and documentary screenings, as well as symposiums on contemporary issues.

Through its programming and academic commitments, the Forum will highlight the arts, emerging technologies, and faith as powerful catalysts for social change. Through its global multi-disciplinary speaker programs, thought-provoking artistic programs and performances, and innovative multimedia exhibits, the Forum will engage a diverse range of influential and emerging leaders, working to inspire and educate local, national, and international audiences. As a primary hub and gateway to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, the Forum will also connect visitors to key historic sites and institutions across Alabama, and throughout the participating states.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace

 

mlk.jpg

our future

Drawing from both iconic and underrepresented stories of the heroic men, women, and children who shaped the civil rights movement, the Forum will establish programs that further a global dialogue toward greater civic engagement, equality, innovation and social justice. In the 21st century, these themes align with a wide range of issues, from civic leadership and character development to advocacy for equality and human rights to causes that encompass access to quality education and public health, security and privacy, environmental justice, urban investment, economic security, women’s empowerment, victim’s rights, religious freedom, to reforms in law enforcement, judicial and incarceration systems. As a resource hub and multi-platform events venue, the Forum will organize and host engaging and inspiring programs in collaboration with local, national, and international institutions. There will be emphasis on creating a global dialogue which will feature a wide range of voices and views from a range of perspectives and enlightened viewpoints.

Academic partnerships and affiliations will play a key role in ensuring the scholarly resources, public engagement, and long-term sustainability of the Forum through collaborative faculty and student initiatives. The Forum will actively network with acclaimed universities, colleges, and academic programs. And through a digital humanities initiative and study abroad programs, the Forum will link to academic and institutional partners across the nation and the globe. The Forum will establish a collaborative workspace and community of innovators to build businesses together that nurtures young entrepreneurs and their startups. A Graduate Center of Leadership, Public Policy and Entrepreneurship will be constructed alongside the Forum with an initial residency of 500 to 1,000 students and faculty.

The Forum will examine issues of advocacy, leadership, and civic action by literally bringing the world to its door, a roster of live performances, readings and lectures. Using high-definition real-time streaming, these living dialogues can be shared with audiences around the world.

"Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others."

– Rosa Parks, recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal

 

people.jpg
JOIN US

Now, more than ever, we need to continue to amplify the lessons taught to us by the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement, to be a catalyst for continuing dialogue on human and civil rights. But we need your help to make this dream possible. We have the opportunity to create a living legacy for future generations, to build a bridge from our past to a brighter future. 

The Global Fourm for Freedom and Justice will not only create a new focal point for meaningful dialogue internationally, but it will also have a substantial impact on Alabama. It will be an economic engine with the ability to change the perception of Alabama in the eyes of the world and have a lasting economic impact that will be measured in jobs, growth and greater prosperity for all Alabamians.

More than a history lesson, the Global Forum for Freedom and Justice will truly be a catalyst for positive change in complicated times. Join us in our mission to help freedom and justice ring in Alabama and around the world.

interior-and-exterior.png
 

GLOBAL FORUM ADVISORY COUNCIL

Ralph Appelbaum

Museum Exhibit Design

Rick Atkinson

Pulitzer Prize for History

Jere L. Beasley

Principal & Founder, Beasley Allen

Dr. Pam Benoit

Provost, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Peter Bisanz

Executive Director, Skoll Center for Social Impact Entertainment

Dr. David G. Bronner

CEO, Retirement Systems of Alabama

Rev. Cornell William Brooks

Public Leadership and Social Justice, Harvard Kennedy School

The Honorable Willie L. Brown, Jr.

Former Mayor of San Francisco

Dr. Lonnie G. Bunch III

Director, National Museum of African American History & Culture

Myla E. Calhoun

President, Alabama Power Foundation

Dr. Clayborne Carson

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Education Institute

Mark Crosswhite

Chairman and CEO, Alabama Power Company

David S. Ferriero

Archivist of the United States

Lord Norman Foster

Gold Medal for Architecture

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

African American Research, Harvard University

David Gergen

Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School

Dr. Carla Hayden

The Librarian of Congress

Marillyn A. Hewson

Chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin

The Very Rev. Randolph Hollerith

Dean, Washington National Cathedral

Dr. Joi Ito

Director, MIT Media Lab

Sir Peter Jackson

Film Director and Producer

Johnny Johns

Executive Chairman, Protective Life Corporation

James A. Johnson

Chairman, Johnson Capital Partners

The Honorable Doug Jones

United States Senate

The Honorable Vernon E. Jordan, Jr.

Lazard Frères & Co.

The Honorable Anthony M. Kennedy

Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (Ret.)

 

Dr. Robert S. Langer

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Katharine Ku

Former Director, Stanford Technology Licensing

The Honorable John R. Lewis

United States Congress

Amy Liu

Director, Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings Institution

Christopher Nanni

President, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham

Lita Nelsen

Former Director, MIT Technology Licensing

Aaron Parry

Chief Creative Officer, Stereo D Animation

 

General David Petraeus, USA (Ret.)

Chairman, KKR Global Institute

 

General Colin L. Powell and Alma Powell

Founders, America’s Promise Alliance

 

Reverend Arthur Price, Jr.

Pastor, 16th Street Baptist Church

Robert Raben

The Raben Group

 

Catherine B. Reynolds

CEO, Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation

Wayne R. Reynolds, Chairman

American Academy of Achievement

Anthony D. Romero

Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union

Nick Saban

Head Football Coach, University of Alabama

Barry Scheck

Co-founder, The Innocence Project

The Honorable Terri Sewell

United States Congress

Bartlett Sher

Director, “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Dr. Stephen D. Smith

Executive Director, USC Shoah Foundation Institute

Brendan V. Sullivan, Jr.

Williams & Connolly

John M. Turner, Jr.

President and CEO, Regions Financial Corporation

Dr. Selwyn M. Vickers

Dean, UAB School of Medicine

Laysha Ward

Chief External Engagement Officer, Target

Dr. Ray L. Watts

President, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Rev. Dr. Thomas Wilder, Jr.

Pastor, Bethel Baptist Church

The Honorable Randall Woodfin

Mayor of Birmingham