Alabama Tourism Department Newsletter March 12, 2014

  • National Park Service chief tours civil rights landmarks
  • Thousands march in Selma
  • Travelers spent $11 billion in Alabama last year
  • The Scottsboro Boys nominated for six British Awards, including Best Musical
  • Alabama has two barbecue chains on the list of America’s 10 best
  • U. S. Space & Rocket Center opened two new exhibits March 8
  • StoryCorps oral history project to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center
  • Horseshoe Bend National Military Park commemorates the bicentennial of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend
  • The Freedom Rides Museum
  • UK writer with daughter named Alabama visits the state
  • New website launched to promote 2015 Civil Rights anniversary events
  • Muscle Shoals documentary mentioned in popular, national TV show
  • Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events


National Park Service chief tours civil rights landmarks

Jon Jarvis, the director of the National Park Service, spent Sunday and Monday at civil rights landmarks in Birmingham and Selma. “The National Park Service has the responsibility for telling in many ways the stories of civil rights in this country,” Jarvis said.

His time in Alabama included a visit to Selma where he dedicated the Edmund Pettus Bridge as a national historic landmark. The bridge, on March 7, 1965, was the site of the “Bloody Sunday” attack against civil rights marchers headed to Montgomery. The Bloody Sunday attack brought a national spotlight on civil rights and helped lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Obviously what happened in Birmingham and what happened on Bloody Sunday in Selma are all key components, and we need to get all Americans to understand what happened here and how is it relevant in their lives today,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis, who has been with the Park Service for nearly 40 years, unveiled a plaque naming the Edmund Pettus Bridge as a National Historic Landmark, one of the highest designations for a structure in the nation.

He told state tourism director Lee Sentell that the Alabama Civil Rights Trail is “important work” that is helping educate visitors on the legacy of the movement.

The Park Service office in Tuskegee, led by Superintendent Sandy Taylor, oversees the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights Trail, two interpretive centers, and locations at Tuskegee University and the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.

U.S. Rep, Terri Sewell, whose district includes her hometown of Selma as well as parts of Birmingham and Montgomery, hosted a meeting to plan for the expansion of the Selma Interpretive Center. “So much happened as a result of the voting rights march and we need to tell that story.”

Birmingham Mayor William Bell invited Jarvis on the tour to see the city’s amenities and promote collaboration with the Park Service to enhance Birmingham’s national image. Bell wants to incorporate Birmingham’s sites into a larger national trail of historic places to attract national and international visitors.  “It is our hope to link with other civil rights locations so that people can come here, not only to see what happened 50 years ago, but see the change that occurred,” Bell said.

Jarvis toured Birmingham’s civil rights district downtown as well as Railroad Park and Vulcan Park. The state tourism department sponsored a dinner in Birmingham for the U. S. Park Service delegation from Washington and Atlanta. Stan Austin, Southeastern regional director of the U. S. Park Service in Atlanta, toured with Jarvis.

Bell said Birmingham wants to capitalize on its history to attract visitors interested in cultural tourism and Jarvis could be a strong partner.

Next year is the 50th anniversary of the Selma marches.


Thousands march in Selma

Activists cross Edmund Pettus Bridge for 49th annual commemoration of ‘Bloody Sunday’

By Alvin Benn, The Montgomery Advertiser, March 9

Thousands of activists walked across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge Sunday afternoon to retrace the steps of peaceful protesters who were beaten, gassed and run over by horses by Alabama authorities in 1965.  The annual commemoration drew what could have been the largest attendance since the event began two decades ago.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, once again led a “Faith and Politics” group from Washington in commemorating “Bloody Sunday”— an event that nearly cost him his life 49 years ago.

Lewis suffered a concussion as a first wave of club-waving troopers in gas masks ran over him. As he lay stunned on the bridge, another trooper slammed a night stick against his head.

Before Lewis and his delegation reached the apex of the bridge named for a Confederate general and future U.S. Senator, the crowd’s oldest marcher had a few words to say.

“I remember the beating,” said 102-year-old Amelia Boynton Robinson, as she sat in a wheelchair and waited to be pushed across the bridge. “I definitely will be back next year.”

Sheyann Webb-Christburg, a favorite of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., during the Selma voting rights movement, said the growing popularity of the annual commemoration is a “clear indication” of how well it has been perceived by the public.  “Each year as we celebrate more and more people come to Selma to participate,” she said. “They have never forgotten what happened here nearly 50 years ago.”

Quick congressional approval of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 resulted, in part, from President Lyndon Johnson’s insistence. During a speech on national television, he said Selma “shared history” with Lexington and Concord.

“We shall overcome,” Johnson said at the end of his speech, echoing a familiar phrase in one of the civil rights movement’s most popular songs.

Passage of the Voting Rights Act followed similar approval of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which struck down discriminatory practices in public accommodations.

To read the entire article, go to:


Travelers spent $11 billion in Alabama last year

Travelers spent $11 billion and were responsible for more than 163,000 jobs last year in the state, according to preliminary estimates from the Alabama Tourism Department. This represents a 3.1% increase in travel spending over the previous year.

The report showed that travelers spent money on hotels, restaurants, retail purchases and transportation with every $98,170 in travel industry spending creating one direct job in Alabama. Additionally for every two direct jobs created, the state’s economy indirectly creates one additional job.

“The tourism numbers for 2013 bring great economic news for Alabama. The dollars spent on tourism creates jobs, it grows local economies and generates needed tax revenues. Without the dollars collected by the tourism industry each household in the state would end up paying almost $400 in additional taxes,” state tourism director Lee Sentell said.

Estimates showed that more than 24 million people visited the state last year. Over the 10-year-period from 2003 to 2013, travel spending in Alabama has increased 51% according to the report conducted by Auburn University Montgomery.

The top five counties with the largest travel-related expenditures are: Baldwin County with $3.2 billion in travel-related spending, Jefferson County was second with $1.6 billion, Madison County was third at $997 million, Mobile County ranked fourth with more than $916 million and Montgomery County was fifth with $661 million.

The complete state tourism economic impact report will be available in early April.


The Scottsboro Boys nominated for six British Awards, including Best Musical

The nominations for The Olivier Awards 2014 were announced March 10, by Nigel Harman and Leigh Zimmerman.   Included were six nominations for The Scottsboro Boys, including one for Best Musical.

London theatre’s most prestigious awards will be presented at a star-studded ceremony, featuring exclusive performances, at the Royal Opera House on Sun., April 13.

For the full list of nominations available, go to:



Alabama has two barbecue chains on the list of America’s 10 best

By Bob Carlton,, March 6

Two of the 10 best barbecue chains in America are right here in Alabama, according to the food website The Daily Meal.

Birmingham-based Jim ‘N’ Nick’s Bar-B-Q, which was founded by father and son Jim and Nick Pihakis in 1985, is #1 on The Daily Meal’s 10 best list.  Moe’s Original Bar B Que, whose founding partners Mike Fernandez, Jeff Kennedy and Ben Gilbert met as college students at the University of Alabama, is #9.

Jim ‘N Nick’s has 14 locations in Alabama, plus restaurants in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The first Moe’s Original Bar B Que opened in Colorado in 2001, but Moe’s now has 12 locations scattered throughout Alabama, plus restaurants in California, Florida, Georgia, Maine, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee — as well as seven more Colorado locations.Here’s what The Daily Meal had to say about the Alabama chains:

Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q: “Perennial exhibitors at best-of-the-best showcases like New York’s Big Apple BBQ Block Party, they’re smoking their own pork (sold pulled or chopped with a vinegary Carolina-style sauce), spare and baby back ribs, house-cured bone-in ham, legendary house-made pork hot links, chicken, turkey breast, and beef brisket, and serving it with a big dose of Southern hospitality. They also offer a killer hickory-grilled burger and pimento cheese sandwich, but honestly, you’re going to want to reserve all the room in your stomach for this crazy-good barbecue.”

Moe’s Original Bar B Que: “With more than 30 locations centered in Alabama and Colorado, Moe’s is doing barbecue right. It was founded by three friends from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa (who) . . . turned a small slopeside catering operation into a barbecue destination. They still offer catering, but a trip to any of their restaurants is sure to be a good time, and is also a great primer in Alabama-style barbecue. Pork and chicken are the showcased items, topped with the signature Alabama white barbecue sauce, but the Angus beef brisket, hot links, St. Louis spare ribs, and fried catfish are also worth saving room for.”

To find out the other eight top barbecue chains, and what The Daily Meal had to say about them, go to:


U. S. Space & Rocket Center opened two new exhibits March 8

Raise the Roof

If walls could talk, what would they say? From classical physics to new discoveries in environmental science, from deeply held cultural beliefs to spectacular feats of engineering, buildings reveal fascinating stories of human ingenuity and science. Interactive components explore the physics of architecture. An object theater examines a house as a system. Other components look at houses of the world, and allow visitors to build their own structures. Raise the Roof draws the visitor into the extraordinary world of buildings as they have never experienced it before. Within this exhibit, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center® will also feature Robert Bigelow’s inflatable space station and an inflatable structure from DRASH like those used by military in the field.

UNCLASSIFIED: The Military Kid Art Show

This is the first traveling museum exhibit exploring the life of a military child through art.  Contemporary and cutting-edge, its mission is to educate and raise awareness of the military child subculture and its profound, lifelong impact on an individual. The exhibit will stimulate discussion panels, arts classes and other programs which honor the service and sacrifice of military children – past and present – and engender compassion and understanding between military and civilian communities.

For more information, go to:


StoryCorps oral history project to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center

WLRH, the Huntsville Public Radio station, will bring the StoryCorps oral history project to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.  For ten years and counting, StoryCorps, an oral history project, has traveled America preserving the oral histories of everyday Americans. Alabama Public Television and WLRH Huntsville Public Radio are proud to host StoryCorps in Huntsville March 13 – April 11 at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.  Signs will direct visitors where they need to go to participate. There is no charge to participate, but reservations are required. Learn more about StoryCorps in Huntsville and make reservations at

The first round of reservations booked in less than one hour.  This will be an exciting opportunity for everyone in north Alabama.   Many of the stories expected to be share are about the individuals who helped America win the space race and land man on the moon.


Horseshoe Bend National Military Park commemorates the bicentennial of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend

Several days of events are planned to mark the 200th Anniversary at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.  Activities include an academic symposium, commemorative program, living history, cultural demonstrations, and much more.

Fri. and Sat., March 21-22, speakers will converge on Auburn University’s Hotel & Convention Center for …Toward a Larger Stage: The War of 1812, the Creek War, and the Idea of America, a symposium that will discuss the history and impacts of the battle at Horseshoe Bend in a national, regional and local context. In partnership with the Friends of Horseshoe Bend National Military Park and the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities at Auburn University, fourteen different presentations will explore major events that shaped the nation. Participation is free but registration is required.

Thur. & Fri., March 27 & 28, the park will commemorate the battle with several guest speakers and participants, including a large contingent of elders and dignitaries from the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma. Dr. Kathryn Braund, Hollifield Professor of Southern History at Auburn University will give the keynote address during this ceremony.

Commemorate and remember these important events and people in Alabama and United States history. All events are free and open to the public.

For more detailed information, and to register for the academic symposium, please visit:, or call 256-234-7111.


The Freedom Rides Museum

By Miriam C. Davis, Alabama Living Magazine, March 2014

From the outside, the building looks much like it did when I was in college and stopped here on my trips from Mobile to Atlanta – a simple box-like, yellow brick structure. An old-fashioned Greyhound sign still hangs in front. Yet there is something special about this old Montgomery bus station, something I didn’t realize then. It was the site of one of the most dramatic episodes of the fight against Jim Crow.

Ellen Mertins of the Alabama Historical Commission welcomes me to the Freedom Rides Museum and explains, “In the 1990s, this building was deemed ‘historic,’ but it wasn’t until 2008 that the Alabama Historical Commission actually got access to it. The museum opened in 2011, the fiftieth anniversary of the Freedom Rides.”

Outside the building, panels of photographs and text tell the story:  In 1961, Freedom Riders – people committed to non-violence, many of them college students – challenged de facto segregation on the South’s interstate bus transportation system by riding from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans in racially mixed groups. When twenty young Freedom Riders arrived in Montgomery on May 20, they were viciously attacked by an angry white mob. The following night, a mob besieged the church in which the black community had staged a rally to support the Freedom Riders. Local police did nothing to restore order until the threat of federal intervention convinced Alabama Governor John Patterson to send the National Guard to disperse the crowd, allowing the Freedom Rides to continue.

Inside the building, museum visitors can see exactly what the students were protesting. The old “Colored” entrance is bricked over, but one can see that it wasn’t a proper door at all, just a gap in the wall. Diagrams and pictures convey the second-class experience of black passengers. While the main entrance brought whites into a spacious waiting room and dining counter, the opening in the wall for black customers brought them directly on onto the bus platform. They had to walk past buses, through diesel fumes, to their smaller waiting room, dining counter, and restroom facilities.

When the Alabama Historical Commission established the museum, it decided to focus on artistic interpretations of the Freedom Rides. Mertins says it was a way of drawing in people who might not connect with a traditional history museum. Fifteen local and national artists were featured at the museum’s opening, with exhibits ranging from a realistic bronze sculpture depicting “Liberté,” to abstract works such as “Detour,” a mixed media display of wood, metal, and cement.

Several artists chose ordinary objects to celebrate the extraordinary actions of the Freedom Riders. Cindy Buob’s painting “Objections,” is based on mugshots of four Civil Rights workers and conveys how proud they were to be arrested for their cause.  In “By Bus, By Train, By Plane – They Came!” Gwendolyn Magee used a simple quilt to commemorate the names of the 443 “foot soldiers” of the Freedom Rides. Stephen Hayes recycled street signs and an old tire to represent the road to equality in his abstract sculpture, “Detour.”

The artists’ exhibits change every year, renewing the museum experience with fresh perspectives. On my recent visit, I was struck repeatedly by how everyday objects can be transformed to examine and celebrate the extraordinary. One permanent collection piece, Terry S. Hardy’s “Monument,” is constructed with a stack of old suitcases to represent the histories of those traveling on the road to equality. Artist Charlie Lucas used scrap metal to convey the story of the Freedom Riders in “We Ride Together,” a metal sculpture of a Greyhound bus.  Quilt artist Yvonne Wells tells the story of the young activists who persevered against angry mobs in “Let Freedom Ride II.”

My favorite exhibit is by photographer Eric Etheridge. He paired mug shots of the original Montgomery Freedom Riders with recent photographs of them. Life went on for the movement’s heroes, who became pastors, teachers, and business owners – people one might take for ordinary – but who faced very real violence with the gospels of non-violence and equality.

Ultimately, the Freedom Riders’ mission was a success. The violence at the Montgomery Greyhound station inspired more riders to continue the journey from Montgomery into Mississippi. The attention these activists brought to the injustice of segregation the led Interstate Commerce Commission to rule by that all facilities in interstate travel must be integrated.

Today, visitors come from all over to learn the story of the Freedom Rides. Take a tour led by one of the museum’s staff. Wander into the “Share Your Story” kiosk and listen to the reminiscences of the Freedom Riders, or record your own reflections on what you’ve learned.

You’ll never look at this ordinary bus station the same way again.


UK writer with daughter named Alabama visits the state

By Cassie Fambro,, March 7

Telegraph writer Jessamy Calkin had never been to Alabama, but always loved the American South. The UK writer flew across the pond and landed in New Orleans, hoping to experience the south. On her docket – visiting Mobile first.  Her daughter, Alabama, 17, wanted to experience the state she’s named for.

The writer recapped her trip and had pleasant things to write about Mobile.

“Mobile is an old-fashioned southern sea port that prospered from a booming shipbuilding economy during the Second World War. Nearby, the USS Alabama is stationed, a battleship commissioned in 1942 that became known as ‘the hero of the pacific’,” she said.

She said she wished she would have stayed in the Battlehouse Hotel, she wrote. “Many people asked, ‘are you on business or vaycaytion?’” poking fun at the southern accent.

Calkin ventured down Dauphin Street as well.

“There is a wonderful second-hand bookshop, Bienville Books, and next to a pool bar a large biker was boiling crawfish on an industrial-looking gas burner on the pavement. We ate supper in a tall-ceilinged old pizza place called Buck’s and Jonah (Calkin’s 12-yr-old son) fell asleep with his head on the table.”

She noticed the strange weather Mobile has, as well.  “It rained all the time we were there, and for a few hours there was a freakish wind. The bellhop, Jeb, said he had never seen anything like it and he had lived in Mobile all his life.”

Calkin also ventured to Monroeville and visited the museum there, with favorable reviews.

To read the entire article, go to:


New website launched to promote 2015 Civil Rights anniversary events

A new web site,, was launched to provide information to the public about the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights Marches and the 60th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Both anniversaries take place in 2015. The site is created by a partnership between the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitor Bureau, The City of Montgomery, The City of Selma, The Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce and the National Parks Service Lowndes Interpretive Center.

The site features information on each of the partners with brief explanations of the historic events which took place in each location. It also includes a listing of events taking place in 2015 to mark the important anniversaries. The site is carries the “Dream Marches On” brand, which is inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose work in Alabama launched his career as a Civil Rights Leader. The slogan also expresses the idea that the effort to insure equality continues here today.

An increased number of tourists seeking the Civil Rights Heritage experience are expected to visit all three partner locations during the anniversary year. This site is designed to assist the traveler or group tour planner by providing access to event, lodging and sales representatives’ information.

The site will also be an outlet for future news regarding special events and tourism packages for 2015 in Selma, Lowndes County and Montgomery.

For more information please contact the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitor Bureau at 334-261-1100.


Muscle Shoals documentary mentioned in popular, national TV show

Muscle Shoals movie was mentioned on the NBC TV show Parenthood on March 6.

To see the mention, go to:


Alabama Tourism Department (ATD) upcoming events

Mar. 27-30                  Nashville Southern Women’s Show, Nashville, TN

April 3                           ATD Workshop in Tuscumbia

April 5                            Annual Spring Walking Tours begin

May 3-6, 2014            Alabama League of Municipalities, Mobile

July 19-22, 2014       Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism, Auburn


The Alabama Tourism Department News is a free electronic newsletter produced by the Alabama Tourism Department. It contains news about the state tourism department and the Alabama tourism industry.

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Alabama Tourism Department