A Birmingham hotel is removing a photo of Confederate army veterans after a guest complained.
Ahmar Mustikhan, an activist and writer, said he did not like seeing a photo in the Tutwiler Hotel that depicts a 1916 Confederate veterans reunion. A handwritten caption on the photo reads, “The 26th Annual Confederate Veterans Reunion Tutwiler Hotel Lobby.”
Mustikhan, who lives in Washington D.C., was in town for commemorations of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.
“When I came to Birmingham, my eyes were opened to the kind of atrocities that people over there faced in 1963 and today,” Mustikhan said.
The hotel general manager, Kay French, removed the photo on Sept. 18. In an email, she said the hotel is working to determine an appropriate replacement.
“I went and saw this huge picture and I really did not know what to do about it because I wasn’t sure how safe it was for me to react to it. As far as I know the Confederate veterans were actually the KKK,” Mustikhan said.
A group of Confederate soldiers established the first chapter of the Ku Klux Klan which was devoted to white supremacy and to ending Reconstruction in the South.
The Tutwiler Hotel opened in 1914 and was, in part, responsible for Birmingham becoming a major destination point in the South. The original building was demolished in 1974; a new luxury hotel with the name opened in 1986.
Mustikhan wants to ensure a meaningful change is made and wants the hotel to consider replacing the photo with that of the four little girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair, or one of the city’s many civil rights leaders.
He also contacted the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to work with the hotel to determine an appropriate replacement.
Samantha Elliott Briggs, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute vice president, said in an email that she is working with the institute’s historical content expert and head of archives to see if they are in a position to acquire the Confederate army photo.
“This picture can be hung in an institute for education, but it should not be displayed in a business. Because in that case, this picture belongs to the dustbin of history,” Mustikhan said.
The activist believes a public apology from the hotel is in order.