As summarized in its Mission Statement, the Institute sets out to "focus on what happened in the past, to portray it realistically and interestingly, and to understand it in relationship to the present and future developments of human relations in Birmingham, the United States and perhaps the world."
From its inception the Institute founders recognized the universality of human conflict. After all, Dr. Martin L. King had been deeply influenced by the religious and ethnic conflicts in India, parts of Africa and Eastern Europe earlier in the twentieth century. In time these and other nations drew positive lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement. Given this broad historical context the Institute perceived human rights as a universal striving. The events that occurred in Birmingham, Alabama in the mid twentieth century provided a relevant case study of conflict resolution with global application.
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute signifies that Birmingham does not hide from its past. It acknowledges that where once the city housed two people, Black and White, unknown to one another except through the painful thread of segregation, Birmingham now embraces its past, neither forgetting nor dwelling on it, but using it to foster understanding.
The Institute recognizes the redemptive importance of memory. It is both a time capsule, and a modern day think-tank focused on seeking equitable solutions to common problems. In some ways the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute functions as a town square where the community gathers to discuss common concerns. It is a place where yesterday's struggles inspire a brighter tomorrow. It is a meeting ground for the makers of everyday history, and for those who write about the present.