Roaming 14 states and their significant landmarks seems a bit much for one trek along the South’s new Civil Rights Trail. That’s why Cultural Heritage TravelingMom breaks it down in some meaningful chunks. Build your journey with her tips and experiences involving museums, churches, courthouses and neighborhoods. Meeting the people in those places tells the story best.
Traveling with intention to understand America’s quest for social justice just got easier. That’s the gift of the Civil Rights Trail launched in 2018 by TravelSouthUSA.
Imagine the chance to talk to people in 14 states, collectively knowing thousands of real stories that happened in hundreds of places. And then choosing the ones to put on a sensible map for the rest of us to follow.
Remarkable such a complicated collaboration ever happened.
Access the United States Civil Rights Trail details here.
Encounter 1960s Leaders On Civil Rights Trail Today
Fire up your desire first hearing some of the person-to-person wonders already happening because this Trail is real.
A docent in the stunning new Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi was jailed at age 13 in 1961 for protesting injustices along with his church members. Today Hezekiah Watkins is a respected docent in the museum Ask him about the Freedom Riders and his time sharing a cell with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Singing gave strength and courage to seekers of justice and Rutha Harris sings those songs every second Saturday in Albany, Georgia. She was one of the four 1960s Freedom Singers traveling 50,000 miles up the east coast in the 1960s to raise money and awareness. Find the new Freedom Singers with Harris at Old Mount Zion Baptist Church.
A sanitation worker struggling in the Memphis, Tennessee, 1968 strike when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, stood side-by-side on stage with Gov. Bill Haslam for the Trail’s Tennessee launch. Suppose Elmore Nickleberry ever imagined his name and his personhood would be so honored? He’s 86 and still works for the city!
Figuring Out The Civil Rights Paths To Take
Step one is picture yourself somewhere between Topeka, Kansas and Midway, Georgia or between New Orleans and Wilmington, Delaware.
They’re the widest stretches to travel.
Clarity’s easy to find on the simple Civil Rights Trail map. Southern city names and dots to indicate their location are straightforward. The Trail logo shows people walking and that’s possible in some places.
TravelingMom Tip: Plan a road trip from your driving or fly-in location. Biggest concentration of sites are Mississippi and Alabama. Tennessee has 10 well defined Civil Rights historic sites stretching east-west from Clinton to Nashville to Memphis.
Georgia Civil Rights Trail Features Atlanta Abundance and Albany Music
I live in Georgia and know walking is suitable for many National Park Service National Historic Sites in Atlanta.
TravelingMom Tip: Experience the Old Fourth Ward business and residential neighborhood in the midst of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. birth home, museum center, burial site and Ebenezer Baptist Church. O4W bubbles with neighborhood community energies.
The reward for driving to Albany in southwest Georgia is an afternoon of music in Old Mount Zion Baptist Church with the Freedom Singers. Only happens on second Saturdays each month and calling ahead is a good idea.
Can’t get more authentic than this. Freedom Singer Rutha Harris was a teenager in the 1960s when she traveled 50,000 miles to sing the songs of the Civil Rights movement and raise money for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
The songs endured globally. “We Shall Overcome” played in triumph when the Berlin Wall fell and when students demonstrated in China’s Tiananmen Square.
What Happened Here Changed The World: Civil Rights Trail Mantra
No wonder following the Civil Rights Trail is a big endeavor. So was the charge that launched it.
First, the National Park Service challenged states to chronicle Civil Rights events and the landmarks still existing where history was made. Think World Heritage sites in America.
On request, college presidents proposed sites where “what happened here changed the world.”
Today a World Heritage Initiative is spearheaded through Georgia State University, documenting the details of “places of global importance in the struggle for freedom.”
That’s how history professor Dr. Glenn Eskew describes the Initiative to identify nominees. Ultimately the National Park Service and the U. S. Department of the Interior will determine southern Civil Rights Trail locations for UNESCO and World Heritage officials to then evaluate.
TravelingMom Tip: Follow the Civil Rights Trail soon, before international travelers flock South. World Heritage travelers are dedicated and robust.
Alabama Cities Add Insight Along Civil Rights Trail
Eight Alabama cities spotlight robust evidence of what happened here changed the world.
In Montgomery, spend time in the home of young Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and contemplate the life of his wife Coretta and their young children when Rosa Parks stayed in her seat near the front of the bus.
Then head to the museum bearing her name. Historic churches, the state capitol, sculptor Maya Lin’s memorial to 41 who died in the struggle and more tell stories that matter.
Since the Civil Rights Trail launched, Montgomery added a National Memorial for Peace and Justice, developed through the Equal Justice Initiative. Lynching is a key focus.
Birmingham tells the history in a handsome park where even the sidewalk design has meaning. Empathy for what happened and what continues is the overarching mood in the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and historic churches.
Civil Rights Trail Through Mississippi Includes Stunning Museum in Jackson
The Civil Rights Museum design and mission was well underway in Jackson, Mississippi before the Trail launched. Now it’s a signature piece with stunning design and interactive features.
Artistry and technology, however, do not overshadow the pain of the history. They give depth to stories of history and visuals to shocking truths.
Civil rights leaders gathered often at Tougaloo College in Jackson and sitting in the campus church where they met provides ample opportunity to muse about their conversations and passions.