10 Top Sites on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail
See where Dr. Martin Luther King., Jr changed the world plus food and music of the south.
This amazing educational adventure mixes fun with history. Embark on a journey of discovery and memories while standing where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached and marched. It’s not only a top 10 King site tour, but a true southern USA experience. You will start in Atlanta and end in Memphis, but as you will discover, Alabama stands at the center of southern cultural and history that changed the world.
Ideas for First Timers:
- In Montgomery go on More Than Tours, featured in New York Times
- In Birmingham go to 16th Street Church Sunday service for Gospel music
- In Montgomery, eat at Cahaba House, downtown local food restaurant
- In Montgomery tour the Alabama State Capitol Building, beautiful and free
- In Birmingham seek out the Atomic Lounge, a hip retro 60s bar where you can borrow a costume from their closet and wear.
Ideas for Repeat Visitors:
- In Birmingham go to a show at either historic theaters, The Alabama or The Lyric
- In Muscle Shoals area, shop at Billie Reid, This local fashion clothing designer has stores in New York, Austin, Charleston but this Florence store is his hometown headquarters location.
- Add Anniston, Alabama, to your trip for Freedom Riders site and outdoor fun.
- In Montgomery explore American Civil War history at the 1st White House of the Confederacy
- Visit Muscle Shoals during the annual 10-day W.C.Handy Music Festival. Held in July, this annual festival is nearing its 40th year.Atlanta – The Birthplace of a Peace Leader
First Stop: Atlanta
Born in Atlanta, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. grew up in a time of strict segregation.
Following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps, Dr. King became a minister and preached about peace through nonviolence at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Atlanta churchgoers witnessed the birth of this message that inspired millions and helped shape the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King is buried in Atlanta at The King Center. In addition to these two top 10 King sites, you will want to visit The World of Coke, the Georgia Aquarium and hear live blues at Northside Tavern or Blind Willie’s.
Second Stop: Tuskegee, then Montgomery
Tuskegee / Montgomery – City with most U.S. Civil Rights Trail sites
As you depart Atlanta for Montgomery, you will travel past the U.S. National Park Service Tuskegee Airmen Historical site.
See where the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military pilots, trained during World War II in a segregated America. Then continue to Montgomery, and see why it was voted best historic city in America. Tour the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church and stand behind King’s pulpit. Visit his home at Dexter Parsonage Museum on the site where Martin Luther King Jr. lived while leading the Montgomery bus boycott. At night, there is the downtown Alley way with food and entertainment only steps away from the Alabama Riverwalk with riverboat cruises. His home and church are top King sites 3 and 4.
Third Stop: Montgomery / Selma
Next day continue your Montgomery visit at the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, where you can step back in time and see a 1955 Montgomery city bus for yourself, or visit the nearby Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, two sites which highlights the difficult discussions of slavery and racial terror in America.
Later take the 45-minute drive to Selma to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where King started the Selma-to-Montgomery March. Also see the AME Brown Capel in Selma, chosen as the place to organize non-violent protests by King and others in the 1960s. As you return to Montgomery, you will be traveling back along the Selmato Montgomery historic highway in the same direction the marchers took during their 5 -day journey. Back in Montgomery you will want to visit the museum and gravesite to America’s first country music superstar, Hank Williams. Also see the house museum to America’s Jazz Age couple, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald He was the author of The Great Gasby. she was dubbed as “the first American Flapper”, a reference to the 1920’s fashionable young women intent on flouting conventional standards of behavior. The Edmund Pettus Bridge and the AME Brown Chapel are King sites 5 and 6.
Forth Stop: Birmingham
Travel to Birmingham and visit Birmingham’s Civil Rights District, home to Kelly Ingram Park, a site where marchers and activists came together in protest.
Across the street is 16th Street Baptist Church, where Ku Klux Klan members killed four young girls in a 1963 bombing and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a museum affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, that exhibits events that shaped King’s life and includes the cell door of the Birmingham Jail in which King wrote Letter from Birmingham Jail. Great food and music in Birmingham. Highlands Bar and Grill was named America’s most outstanding restaurant in 2018. It’s just one of a number of great dining in the cities four downtown food and entertainment districts. What has been called America’s last true Juke Joint is in the backyard of Henry Gipson’s home in the Bessemer community. If in town on a Saturday night this is a must-see blues shack. Another great attracting is the Barber VintageMotorcycle Museum which houses the World’s Largest Motorcycle Collection. The 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelley Ingram Park and Birmingham Civil Rights Institute are King sites 7-9.
Fifth Stop: Muscle Shoals
Your next stop is Muscle Shoals, the “Hit Recording Capital of the World.” The area received this title due to the worldwide music hit that was recorded in the studios in the small Alabama villages in the northwest corner of the state.
At the same time that King was marching for equal rights in Alabama, musicians of all races were recording hit records at FAME Studios, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and others in the area. Have fun touring these studios and the Father of the Blues, W. C. Handy’s home. This is also the home town of Sam Phillips, called the father of Rock n Roll for launching Elvis’ career and founding Sun Records and Sun Studio. See the Elvis contract at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Other cultural sites are Rattlesnake Saloon, a western style saloon in the where you can dance and drink the night away, the Helen Keller Home where the deaf-blind author and political activist learned the word “water” and the remarkable Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall, the longest memorial to a Native American honoring a woman who walked back home after being forced West on the Trail of Tears.
6th Stop: Memphis
The Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated is part of the National Civil Rights Museum. Everything from vintage furnishings to authentic period decor have been used to evoke the 1960s – even the automobiles parked in front are vintage vehicles.
This is #10 of the King sites. Of course another king, Elvis, has his home and gravesite in Memphis. Be sure to visit while in the city that includes Beale Street. Leave from Memphis or make your way back to Atlanta by way of Nashville.
Need more information:
Rosemary Judkins, Group Tour Sales Manager 334-242-4493
Graham Roderick, International Sales 334-353-1907