Copyright ©2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

One of the places where Barack Obama's inauguration has special meaning is Birmingham, Alabama, a city rich in civil rights history. Tanya Ott of member station WBHM is there at Boutwell Auditorium where crowds will gather to watch the first African-American president take the oath of office. And good morning. I hope I said that right. Did I - I said the auditorium right.

TANYA OTT: Well, not exactly, Renee, but thank you. Good morning.

MONTAGNE: No, dig.

OTT: It's Boutwell Auditorium.

MONTAGNE: Boutwell. No one could go a couple of ways.

OTT: Boutwell. Yes.

MONTAGNE: Well, I'm not from there, so - but many of our listeners are not either, so tell us what the scene is like.

OTT: Well, you know, right now, the scene is rather quiet because Boutwell Auditorium doesn't open to visitors or to people that are coming to the inaugural celebration until eight o'clock Central Time, sort of about an hour and a half away. Right now, we've got media lined up out front with their trucks doing live shots for the morning television news. Of course, this event is attracting international attention. The BBC is supposed to be here and we're here as well talking with you. If you were to look at the scene here, you've got an auditorium that seats about 6,000 people and it is absolutely plastered in red, white and blue - dozens of red, white and blue buntings hung from railings and flags hung from the ceilings and, of course, the obligatory balloons suspended above and ready to be dropped when the appropriate moment comes.

MONTAGNE: Remind us why this day is so significant to the people in your city.

OTT: Well, let me just look over here at the stage. On the stage here in the auditorium, it's flanked by two massive American flags. And this is a stage that in 1956, singer Nat King Cole was performing here at Boutwell Auditorium, and he was assaulted by three white assailants who jumped on stage during a segregated performance here and accosted him. And later that year, there were other really prominent musical performances here at Boutwell that also played to segregated crowds, and there were picketers outside the auditorium. Just a couple of blocks from here, Renee, four or five blocks down the road is where the infamous protests were done where Bull Connor turned the fire hoses and police dogs on civil-rights protesters. Those images, of course, are classic, classic images from the Civil Rights Movement. So, folks have been watching the election of Barack Obama very closely and for them, this is an incredibly historic moment.

MONTAGNE: Tanya, thanks very much for talking with us.

OTT: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Tanya Ott of member station WBHM at the Birmingham, Alabama Convention Center.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: