Tourism Tuesdays April 24, 2018

Southern civil rights landmarks are covered in magazines, newspapers and other media
New lynching memorial offers chance to remember, heal
Alabama: Whether you visit Birmingham or Gulf Coast, where to start
Pelham selected for $100 million national fire safety attraction
New hiking trail opens at Blue Springs State Park on April 27
Alliance aims to spur ecotourism, interest in Alabama delta
Shoals could benefit from proposed Music Cities Study
Best museum exhibits in the U.S. this spring
“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website



Southern civil rights landmarks are covered in magazines, newspapers and other media
A New York Times feature “Learning About the Civil Rights Era Through Travel” that appeared Friday, April 20, featured numerous people and locations. Birmingham Civil Rights Institute CEO Andrea Taylor, state tourism director Lee Sentell, the new Nashville restaurant Woolworth on 5th, Little Rock Central High School and sites in Tupelo and South Carolina.
The April issue of American Airline’s inflight magazine American Way included a full-page article “All Roads Lead to Montgomery.” There were photos of the Civil Rights Memorial, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and Rosa Parks on a bus. Dexter church tour guide Wanda Battle is quoted from one of her tours. (page 24)
National Public Radio national correspondent Debbie Elliott interviewed director Sentell about the diversity of civil rights and Civil War landmarks in the Capital City. Coverage of the opening of the Equal Justice Initiative’s lynching museum in Montgomery was  scheduled to air on Tuesday (today) afternoon on all NPR stations in the nation. See story at

New lynching memorial offers chance to remember, heal
From the article by The Associated Press in the

Elmore Bolling defied the odds against black men and built several successful businesses during the harsh era of Jim Crow segregation in the South. He had more money than a lot of whites, which his descendants believe was all it took to get him lynched in 1947.

He was shot to death by a white neighbor, according to news accounts at the time, and the shooter was never prosecuted.

But Bolling’s name is now listed among thousands on a new memorial for victims of hate-inspired lynchings that terrorized generations of U.S. blacks. Daughter Josephine Bolling McCall is anxious to see the monument, located about 20 miles from where her father was killed in rural Lowndes County.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, opening Thursday, is a project of the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative, a legal advocacy group in Montgomery. The organization says the combined museum and memorial will be the nation’s first site to document racial inequality in America from slavery through Jim Crow to the issues of today.

“In the American South, we don’t talk about slavery. We don’t have monuments and memorials that confront the legacy of lynching. We haven’t really confronted the difficulties of segregation. And because of that, I think we are still burdened by that history,” said EJI executive director Bryan Stevenson.

The site includes a memorial to the victims of 4,400 “terror lynchings” of black people in 800 U.S. counties from 1877 through 1950. All but about 300 were in the South, and prosecutions were rare in any of the cases. Stevenson said they emphasized the lynching era because he believes it’s an aspect of the nation’s racial history that’s discussed the least.

“Most people in this country can’t name a single African-American who was lynched between 1877 and 1950 even though thousands of African Americans were subjected to this violence,” Stevenson said.

The organization said a common theme ran through the slayings, which it differentiates from extrajudicial killings in places that simply lacked courts: A desire to impose fear on minorities and maintain strict white control. Some lynchings drew huge crowds and were even photographed, yet authorities routinely ruled they were committed by “persons unknown.”

McCall, 75, said her father’s killing still hangs over her family. The memorial could help heal individual families and the nation by acknowledging the painful legacy of racial murders, she said.

“It’s important that the people to whom the injustices have been given are actually being recognized and at least some measure — some measure — of relief is sought through discussion,” said McCall.

Combined, the memorial and an accompanying museum a few miles away at the Equal Justice Initiative headquarters tell a story spanning slavery, racial segregation, violence and today’s era of swollen prison populations. With nearly 7 million people behind bars or on parole or probation nationwide – a disproportionate number of them minorities – the NAACP says blacks are incarcerated at a rate five times that of whites.

E.M. Beck, who studied lynching for 30 years and has written books on the subject, said the memorial might actually understate the scope of lynching even though it lists thousands of victims.

“I think it’s an underestimate because the number and amount of violence in early Reconstruction in the 1870s will probably never be known. There was just an incredible amount of violence taking place during that period of time,” said Beck, sociology professor emeritus at the University of Georgia.

The memorial’s design evokes the image of a racist hanging, featuring scores of dark metal columns suspended in the air from above. The rectangular structures, some of which lie flat on the ground and resemble graves, include the names of counties where lynchings occurred, plus dates and the names of the victims. The goal is for individual counties to claim the columns on the ground and erect their own memorials.

Not all lynchings were by hanging. The Equal Justice Initiative says it scoured old newspapers, archives and court documents to find the stories of victims who were gunned down, drowned, beaten and burned alive. The monument is a memorial to all of them, with room for names to be added as additional victims are identified.

The monument’s April 26 opening will be marked by a two-day summit focusing on racial and social justice, to be followed by an April 27 concert featuring top acts including Common, Usher, the Dave Matthews Band and The Roots.

McCall plans to view the memorial with her five living siblings. She says they suffered more than she did, since she was only 5 when their father was slain.

A newspaper account from the time said the 39-year-old Bolling, who owned a store and trucking company and farmed, was shot seven times on a road near his store by a white man, Clarke Luckie, who claimed Bolling had insulted his wife during a phone call.

McCall, who researched the slaying extensively for a book about her father, said it’s more likely that Luckie, a stockyard employee, resented her father, who had thousands of dollars in the bank, three tractor-trailer rigs and employed about 40 people.

“He was jealous and he filled him with bullets,” she said.

Luckie was arrested, but a grand jury issued no indictment and no one was ever prosecuted. McCall believes the white people who controlled the county at the time purposely covered for the killer, who died decades ago.

One of Alabama’s oldest black congregations, Old Ship A.M.E. Zion Church, sits across the street from the memorial. Its pastor plans to offer prayer and conversation to help visitors who are shaken by the experience of visiting the site.

Church members have mixed feelings about the memorial, she said. They want to acknowledge and honor the past, McFadden said, but some are wondering how they’ll personally react to visiting the memorial the first time.

“It’s something that needs to be talked about, that people need to explore. But it’s also something that has the potential to shake people to the core,” said Rev. Kathy Thomas McFadden.

For the complete article please see

Alabama: Whether you visit Birmingham or Gulf Coast, where to start
From the article by Blake Guthrie on (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

If you’re not from Alabama or haven’t traveled extensively in the Yellowhammer State, you’re in for some surprises. From its biggest cities to its more remote natural wonders, there’s plenty to discover.

Downtown Birmingham’s renaissance
Modern downtown Birmingham has neighborhoods with names like the Loft District and the Theatre District, each containing renovated early-20th-century buildings housing trendy shops, bars, restaurants and entertainment venues. These monikers didn’t exist when I was growing up in the Magic City; downtown was a ghost town after business hours back then. The vacant department store I remember driving by in my youth is now Pizitz Food Hall.

The best new hotel in the city resides in one of its most historic and beautiful buildings. The Elyton Hotel is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. The luxury hotel takes up the entire circa-1909 Empire Building, a stone, iron and marble beauty that has been restored to its former glory. Even if you don’t stay there, you’ll want to check out the architectural motifs and visit the rooftop bar for the panoramic skyline views. The hotel sits within easy walking or biking distance to the best of new and old downtown Birmingham. Grab a bicycle from one of the many Zyp BikeShare stations scattered about town.,

From the hotel, head under the neon-lit, tunnel-like 20th Street viaduct to the south side of the railroad tracks and Railroad Park ( This 19-acre park and surrounding neighborhood was once an eyesore of abandoned warehouses and weed-grown vacant lots. A concerted effort in the 2000’s brought the urban green space with its rolling lawns, babbling streams and ponds to fruition. A new baseball stadium, Regions Field, home to the minor league Birmingham Barons, was built afterward. Then came businesses like Good People Brewing Co., one of five craft breweries within a few miles of one another in the Southside neighborhood (the others being Trim Tab Brewing Co., Cahaba Brewing Co., Avondale Brewing Co. and Ghost Train Brewing Co.). Nowadays, Railroad Park is filled with people day and night, plays host to many special events throughout the year, and even sports an ice skating rink in winter.

A glorious backyard: Gip’s Place
This backyard juke joint in a backwater neighborhood in the historic steel town of Bessemer has been in operation since the 1950s. In those early days before integration, Gip’s Place was certainly on one side of the color line. Nowadays (Saturday nights, specifically), Gip’s sees a mixed crowd, not only of black and white but also young and old. Gip Gipson, at 98 years old, still shows up to pray and play the blues before the evening’s featured act takes the stage housed in a giant, lean-to-style shack, its walls covered in decades-worth of memorabilia, autographed photos and show posters. Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have paid homage here.

Unlike most music clubs where it’s de rigueur to show up late, you’ll want to get here early (by 8 p.m.) to partake in the opening festivities of words and blues from Gip, a prayer, and the traditional singing of “Amazing Grace” before the party gets started. No booze is sold, but you can bring your own in a cooler. The cover charge is usually 10 bucks. And it’s an experience unlike any other in the entire state. Go see Gip and the entertainment on his stage before it’s too late. He is a link in the chain to the great bluesmen and women of the past.

Waterfall hunting
Head over the Georgia line into northeast Alabama to see an array of magnificent waterfalls. One of the most impressive is 107-foot DeSoto Falls inside DeSoto State Park, a crown jewel of the Alabama state park system. DeSoto Falls plunges into a deep stone-face bowl in the middle of the Lookout Mountain plateau. It’s one of the more scenic spots in the state. Little River that feeds DeSoto Falls runs down the middle of the wide plateau and leads into the Little River Canyon National Preserve a few miles south of DeSoto. Little River Canyon, one of the deepest gorges east of the Mississippi, contains numerous falls, the most spectacular being 45-foot Little River Falls stretching all the way across the river and looking like a smaller version of Niagara Falls after heavy rainfall. In Gadsden, 90-foot Noccalula Falls is named after a Native American princess who, according to legend, leaped to her death here. It’s one of the state’s most-visited natural

Beyond the beach on the coast
The Alabama Gulf Coast makes a great spot for a beach vacation, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice if all you did was stay on the beach. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have an abundance of other activities and attractions beyond the beach. Chief among them is the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, actually seven trails running for over 15 miles through secondary dune systems and maritime forests past lakes and wetlands. The trails, which connect Orange Beach and Gulf State Park, are open to walkers, runners, leashed pets, and bicycles. It’s an easy-to-navigate system offering an abundance of wildlife viewing and sightseeing opportunities. The area also has a lot of back bays and bayous worth exploring. These calm waters are home to a large dolphin population. There are a few eco-cruise operators offering dolphin watching excursions. Hotel Indigo Orange Beach — Gulf Shores is a new, pet-friendly hotel that sits adjacent to a backcountry trailhead and directly across from the beach.

Best bar in the state
A good bar is defined by three things: good atmosphere, good people and good music. In the historic Oakleigh Garden Historic District of Mobile, Callaghan’s Irish Social Club serves up all three in fine fashion, with some good grub to boot. In operation since the 1940s, Callaghan’s sits on a neighborhood corner with no competition in sight. Southern Living magazine has deemed it the “the South’s best bar.” As a tiny stage-on-the-floor-in-the-corner music venue, it’s become a bit of a bellwether venue to catch up-and-coming acts. Alabama Shakes and Jason Isbell, among others, performed here on their way up the music food chain.

For the complete article please see

Pelham selected for $100 million national fire safety attraction
From the article by William Thornton on

Pelham has been chosen as the site for a one-of-a-kind interactive center aimed at informing the public about safety.

The National Center for Fire and Life Safety (NCFLS) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) announced today the NFPA HEROES Experience, the first public fire and life safety education attraction of its kind, will be built in Pelham.

The $100 million, 100,000-square-foot center will be located off Interstate 65 and is bordered by I-65, County Road 52 and Alabama 31. A groundbreaking is projected to take place in 2019, with opening set for 2021.

Boston’s Verner Johnson is the architecture firm designing the project, while BRC Imagination Art, which has been involved in projects from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, will design the visitor’s experience.

In addition, the Jim Henson Co. will be involved in designing the children’s area, and the center’s mascot. Organizers plan to spend the next year fundraising.

Russell Jackson, CEO of NCFLS, said the center will be “100 percent education and 100 percent showmanship.” The Pelham site was chosen because of its topography and its proximity to the I-65 corridor, aiming for tourists headed to the beach.

“We started planning this at the beginning of 2015,” Jackson said. “We’ve brought hundreds and hundreds of people to the table.”

The center will be a public non-profit attraction for K-12 school groups and families and tourists. Stories, exhibits and experiences will be depicted to “dramatize the importance of preventing fire and life safety measures,” organizers say.

Jackson said one other reason for Pelham’s selection is Alabama’s position among the leading states for fire-related deaths.

Life safety is aimed at preventing accidental deaths, which can cover everything from poisoning to electrocution to ladder safety. Unintentional injuries were the third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2016, and the leading cause of death for Americans from birth to age 44.

Pelham Mayor Gary Waters said the city is thrilled and honored to be home to the center.

“Knowing that our city will make a direct impact on public life safety education nationwide is quite auspicious,” Waters said in a statement. “We are proud to partner with the NFPA and the NCFLS, and we believe the City of Pelham will continue to grow and flourish with the addition of this project.”

For the complete article please see

New hiking trail opens at Blue Springs State Park on April 27
Blue Springs State Park in Clio, AL, will host a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open its first hiking trail on April 27, 2018. The public and media are invited to take part in a guided hike with Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship after the ceremony. The event begins at 10 a.m.

The 2.1-mile Magnolia Trail, along with two .3-mile connector trails, offers an easy to slightly moderate hike through southeast Alabama forest and features scenic views of the west fork of the Choctawhatchee River. The trailhead is located in the park with the bulk of the trail winding through the adjacent Forever Wild Blue Springs State Park Addition.

The 100-acre Blue Springs addition was acquired by the Forever Wild Land Trust in 2013 to provide the state park with an opportunity to create a trail system. The tract features upland pine forest, wooded slopes, and small stream floodplain.

Since the opening of the first state parks in Alabama, trails have been a fundamental part of the park system’s mission to provide and maintain outdoor recreational opportunities.

“Trail use improves quality of life and serves as a gateway activity to the outdoors,” said Greg Lein, Alabama State Parks Director. “With the help of the Forever Wild Land Trust and our other partners, we are honored to offer this addition to our trail system.”

The Magnolia Trail was created through a partnership between the Forever Wild Land Trust, Alabama State Parks, and the Friends of Blue Springs State Park.

“Through such partnerships, State Parks and the Forever Wild Land Trust continue to expand the number of outdoor recreation areas available to the public,” said Commissioner Blankenship. “Increased outdoor access not only benefits the health and well-being of Alabamians, it also has the potential for positive impacts on the local economies where those public lands are located.”

Blue Springs State Park is located at 2595 Alabama Highway 10, Clio, Ala., 36017. For more information about the park, visit

Learn more about the Forever Wild Land Trust, its mission, funding, and the many outdoor recreational opportunities it provides at

To learn more about the Alabama State Parks trail system, visit

The Alabama State Parks Division relies on visitor fees and the support of other partners like local communities to fund the majority of their operations. To learn more about Alabama State Parks, visit

Alliance aims to spur ecotourism, interest in Alabama delta
From the article by The Associated Press in the

Several people and groups are joining forces to promote south Alabama’s Mobile-Tensaw River Delta and its natural resources.

The formation of the Alabama Delta Alliance was announced at a news conference this week.

The alliance aims to support the region and attract tourism.

“The delta is a hugely untapped resource for ecotourism,” Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said.

The Mobile-Tensaw River Delta is home to more than 600 species of fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds. With habitats that include huge swaths of swamps, marshes and wetlands, it’s a maze of tributary creeks, rivers, streams and bayous.

The Alabama Delta Alliance calls it one of the nation’s largest deltas, and one of the world’s most bio-diverse bodies of water.

“The Alabama Delta Alliance is a group that shares a deep appreciation for the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta and the many benefits it offers the people of this state,” said Britton Bonner, chairman of the board of the Coastal Alabama Partnership.

“Our goal is to build a robust, diverse coalition and effort focused solely on promoting the MTRD region — now and in the future,” Bonner added.

The alliance also announced a new website about the region at

For the complete article please see

Shoals could benefit from proposed Music Cities Study
From the article by Russ Corey on

Tuscumbia Mayor Kerry Underwood said his city is excited about participating in a Music Cities Study that would help the Shoals create a marketing strategy to bring more music tourists to the Shoals.

The offer comes from RCP Companies, which is creating MidCity Huntsville, a major entertainment development at the site of the old Madison Square Mall. RCP realizes the importance of Muscle Shoals music past and present, and wants to create a partnership between Huntsville and the Shoals.

The city also wants to become part of the Americana Music Triangle and capitalize on the tourists who visit cities in the triangle, which includes the Shoals.

The Shoals would benefit by increased tourism, especially from international tourists. It would also create additional opportunities for Shoals artists, as well as up and coming musical talent from Huntsville.

RCP Companies is offering to pay $35,000 of the $55,000 study and is asking the Shoals to pay the remaining $20,000. Shoals cities and other entities are being asked to contribute $2,500 each.

Underwood said international tourists spend $3 to every $1 spent by domestic tourists. He said RCP was adamant about including the Shoals in the new development.

“We’re looking forward to connecting to Huntsville to have a bigger market to promote our brand,” Underwood said. “Huntsville is a big market, and if we make some inroads there we all win.”

Colbert County has many of the musical attractions that visitors want to see in the Shoals, including the Alabama Music Hall of fame, FAME Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and Cypress Moon Productions.

The study would be conducted by Sound Diplomacy, a London, England, based company that helps create and deliver strategies that increase the value of music ecosystems. The company has conducted music studies or audits all over the world.

Debbie Wilson, executive director of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, and Anna Hyde, studio and operations manager at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, pitched the study Monday to Tuscumbia and Sheffield city councils.

Hyde said 40 percent of the visitors to Muscle Shoals Sound are from outside the United States.

She said the study would begin the at the end of May and take 10 weeks to complete.

Sheffield Mayor Ian Sanford said he understands why Huntsville wants to take advantage of the Shoals’ musical legacy.

“I think we’re still in our infancy stages in tourism,” he said.

Wilson said Huntsville also wants to tap into Shoals musical talent for their music venues.

Shawn Patrick, a Florence resident involved in music and talent development for RCP Companies, said they are planning to build several music venues at MidCity, including an 8,500-seat regional amphitheater and an indoor multipurpose venue that could hold 500 to 1,500 people.

“Sound Diplomacy actually started a conversation with the city of Huntsville,” Patrick said. “Their music scene is in need of help.”

Patrick said one of the investors in RCP was a fan of the “Muscle Shoals” documentary, which helped bring about a renewed interest in Muscle Shoals music. It also started bringing more music tourists to the Shoals. The investor said the music study could help the Shoals.

Florence-Lauderdale Tourism Executive Director Rob Carnegie said RCP is thinking regionally, and doing so realized the Shoals is important for the MidCity Huntsville development.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to garner some findings out of this study and really use it to our advantage, and leverage the investment to our benefit,” Carnegie said. “It will help us move forward on the brand we know we have.”

When trying to attract international visitors, Carnegie said it’s beneficial to go at it as a region. International visitors, he said, are in the U.S. for two, three and sometimes four weeks at a time.

Carnegie said he will ask the tourism board to help finance the study.

Florence Mayor Steve Holt said he supports the study and will ask the City Council to participate in the cost.

“It’s a great opportunity to take an in-depth look at ourselves,” Holt said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever done an audit of what our strengths and weaknesses are.”

Holt said he also sees the benefit of a partnership with Huntsville and sees music as an important tool for economic development.

Shoals Chamber of Commerce President Caitlin Holland said the chamber is also contributing $2,500. She said the chamber wants to help support projects that excite Shoals leaders.

“We’re always looking for things that they feel passionate about, and this is a good example,” Holland said.

For the complete article please see

Best museum exhibits in the U.S. this spring
From the article by Sarah Maiellano on

Editor’s Note: The Gulf Coast Exploreum’s current exhibit  “Permian Monsters:  Life Before the Dinosaurs” was included in the list of 13, which also included The Hershey Story, Hershey, PA, a Charles Schultz exhibit in California, Cezanne Portraits at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and three others in the New York area.

Permian Monsters at the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center in Mobile, AL
Before the dinosaurs, 290 million years ago, bizarre-looking animals roamed the land and sea during the Permian period. It ended when 90 percent of all species went extinct; scientists now believe global warming contributed to their demise. Mobile’s science museum gives the creatures a new life with an exhibit of fossilized skeletons and life-size robotic models of the period’s giant insects, sharks, and mammal-like reptiles. The exhibit runs through June 3.

For the complete article please see

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website

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