Tuesday Birmingham will mark the 52 anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing which killed 4 girls and helped galvanize support for passage of the Civil Rights Act. For staff at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, they’ll observe this anniversary under new leadership.
Andrea Taylor began as the new president and CEO of the institute last week. She’s a Massachusetts native, a Boston University graduate and trustee of the school, and most recently an executive at Microsoft. Her career has included stints in media and philanthropic organizations.
Taylor says she wasn’t necessarily looking for a new job.
“I was asked to look at a job description and see if I could recommend some other people for consideration,” said Taylor. “When I looked at it I said, well, maybe I might have some interest in it.”
Taylor says she believes the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute could gain more recognition on a national and international level. She found the organization is well known around the city, Alabama, and to a certain extent in the South, but less so outside the region.
“Everyone who does know about it and who has visited here has nothing but positive things to say,” said Taylor. “It’s something that I think is a jewel that is not as widely known as it could be and should be.”
Taylor says she hopes the institute can move beyond the reputation among some as simply a history museum. “One of the things that I would hope we can do is make it more of a organic, living, breathing center and locus of activity,” said Taylor.
She says the organization can be a place where people understand the history but spur conversations about current civil and human rights issues.
Taylor is also proud of finishing the New York Marathon in 2009. She had never been a runner and trained for two years for the event. She says it’s a matter of pursuing a goal, not unlike a career goal.
“I came away from that experience with a new sense of confidence as a mature adult about your ability to set a goal, see something out on the horizon that you think you want to achieve,” said Taylor. “There’s no reason why you can’t get started, achieve that goal and then feel very good about it.”
Hear an extended interview with Andrea Taylor: