March 26, 2023

Stepping away from the lunch counter, my fingers had been shaking and tears had been welling up in my eyes. I glanced over at Hannah, who at 13 was simply sufficiently old to take part on this interactive exhibit on the Heart for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. As our eyes met I knew that the expertise was simply as highly effective for her because it was for me.

You’ll suppose that after ten days on a Civil Rights highway journey studying concerning the Civil Rights Motion, we’d have grow to be desensitized. However as you sit down, clamp the headphones over your ears, put your palms flat on the countertop, shut your eyes and take heed to the voices shouting in your ears you’ll be able to nearly really feel the offended mob respiration down your again.

Because the countertop shakes, you flinch, ready for the blow to return for you. It solely takes a minute and a half of getting into the sneakers of a lunch counter sit-in protester to examine your privilege and get a glimmer of understanding for the bravery it took to face your floor within the face of violence and the specter of demise.

It isn’t simple. It will not be what you consider as a “enjoyable” household trip. However I can’t consider a greater time to show our youngsters about bigotry, discrimination, the legacy of slavery and the continued battle for human and civil rights each in america and around the globe.

As we left for our journey, the NAACP had issued a journey warning to advise individuals of coloration that their civil rights could also be violated in the event that they go to Missouri. We flew residence to the appalling information of white supremacists taking to the streets of Charlottesville, a city we cherished visiting, spreading their vile illness of hate. We had been heartbroken by the tragic lack of life and violence by the hands of a homegrown racist terrorist.

You’ll be able to’t ignore the truth that the battle for the phrases of the Structure to essentially apply to everybody equally is ongoing. Over 50 years have passed by for the reason that passage of the Civil Rights Act and we’re nonetheless coping with gerrymandering, profiling, and people whose hatred stems from a deep-rooted perception that one race is superior to a different.

I am a man mural in Memphis
I’m a Man Mural in Memphis

It is a subject that touches my coronary heart, but it surely was really Hannah who picked to do a Civil Rights highway journey for our annual mother-daughter journey. After finding out Civil Rights at school, studying books like The Watsons go to Birmingham, and watching motion pictures like Selma, she wished to know extra.

I imagine strongly that it’s incumbent on us as mother and father to verify our youngsters perceive the place racism comes from, why it’s rooted so deeply into our society, the battle and bravado it takes to combat for equal civil rights and tips on how to be an efficient ally.

You will get a way for this by studying books, watching motion pictures, and finding out it at school. Nevertheless it doesn’t sink all the way in which in till you stroll within the footsteps of Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, Rosa Parks, Diane Nash, Fred Shuttlesworth, Ralph Abernathy, Hosea Williams, and different leaders of the U.S. Civil Rights motion.

Hopefully you’ll be able to no less than go to one of many many museums and facilities devoted to the motion on a civil rights tour. However in case you actually need the message to hit residence, then I might encourage you to plan a civil rights highway journey.

Planning a Civil Rights Highway Journey

Notice: this put up is written in partnership with Moon Journey Guides. All opinions are my very own.

The official U.S. Civil Rights Trail covers 15 states and the District of Columbia. The itinerary that we adopted on our highway journey lined simply a part of the Civil Rights Path. When planning your personal journey, I might additionally extremely suggest investing in a replica of U.S. Civil Rights Trail: A Traveler’s Guide to the People, Places, and Events that Made the Movement, printed by Moon Journey Guides.

Moon Guide U.S. Civil Rights Trail guidebook with camera and coffee cup

You will want every week to 10 days to do a civil rights highway journey proper. There are such a lot of websites to go to, however I might suggest together with stops in no less than Atlanta, Montgomery, Birmingham, and Memphis. It is sensible to begin in Atlanta, the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr., and finish in Memphis on the Lorraine Motel the place he was assassinated.

Nevertheless, there actually is not any proper or flawed technique to go. We really began in Nashville, as a result of Southwest had a fare sale there and I’ve been desirous to see the Music Metropolis anyway. So our highway journey went like this: 3 nights in Nashville-3 nights in Memphis-1 night time in Birmingham-a cease in Selma-1 night time in Montgomery-3 nights in Atlanta.

If you wish to do one thing comparable, right here is your information. If you wish to additionally see extra websites, be certain that to take a look at the Alabama Civil Rights Trail for concepts just like the Tuskegee Airmen Nationwide Historic Website.

Lorraine Motel
Nationwide Civil Rights Museum on the Lorraine Motel

Civil Rights Websites in Nashville

Notice: We obtained media charges or reductions for a few of our resort stays and excursions, all opinions are my very own. This put up comprises affiliate hyperlinks. For those who click on a hyperlink and make a purchase order, I could obtain a small fee.

Nashville might sound like a shocking alternative for a civil rights highway journey, however most of the lunch counter protestors had been skilled in Nashville. Much more Nashville college students participated within the Freedom Rides. After all, a cease in Nashville is at all times a pleasant means so as to add some enjoyable to the journey.

This rising metropolis is hopping with vitality, nation music, and superb meals. Stroll the streets of downtown to see the markers commemorating the lunch counter sit ins. Keep on the historic Union Station Hotel for straightforward strolling entry to each the downtown honky tonks, Nation Music Corridor of Fame, and the favored Gulch district.

Union Station hotel lobby
Union Station Lodge in Nashville

Civil Rights Websites in Memphis

Simply three and a half hours southwest of Nashville, Memphis was the following cease on our civil rights highway journey. Whereas many individuals come to Memphis to see Graceland or perhaps take heed to some blues, the not-to-be-missed website in Memphis is the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, which is the place the place Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

National Civil Rights Center

The reveals begin very appropriately with a glance again at slavery. As you consider the 250 years that slavery existed in our nation, it’s simpler to know how racial prejudices have taken such deep root. When one race dares to carry one other as “property,” the ethical justification is that the “subservient” race is someway lower than the race claimed to be superior. These attitudes run deep within the tradition and are clearly taking a very long time to alter utterly.

Guests then enter right into a theater for a have a look at segregation up by the Jim Crow period. From there, a sequence of exhibitions stroll you thru the principle moments of the Civil Rights motion together with: college desegregation, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Freedom Rides, pupil sit ins, the March on Washington, the Selma marches, the rise of the Black Energy motion, and a lot extra.

The reveals embody video (reminiscent of MLK Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech,) and replicas of the bombed Freedom Rides bus and a Montgomery metropolis bus. Stepping onto the bus and having the bus driver recording admonish you to go to the again of the bus offers you a small style of what it was prefer to be black within the segregated south. Nothing as highly effective of the lunch counter exhibit in Atlanta, however I can’t watch a video of MLK Jr.’s speeches with out being moved by tears.

Selma Marchers

The ultimate cease within the museum overlooks the rooms within the Lorraine Motel the place Dr. King and his staff spent his final hours. As you solemnly gaze out on the balcony the place he was killed, you’ll be able to’t assist however be crammed with emotion in such a tragic spot. Throughout the road, it’s also possible to go to the Legacy constructing, the place the gun that killed Dr. King was shot. The reveals right here discuss potential alternate theories into who killed MLK, or no less than, who else was concerned.

Memphis tour of possibilities

Your foray into historical past in Memphis shouldn’t cease on the Lorraine Motel. There may be a lot African-American Historical past to discover in Memphis. The very best intro can be to take the “Tour of Possibilities” with Queen. She’s going to drive you round and inform you all concerning the space’s historical past, communities, and leaders (plus level out some superb locations to eat.) Regardless that Queen is a New York-native, she could be very properly related in the neighborhood (as you’ll be able to inform by everybody waving as her van drives by), and retains the tour very entertaining.

Slave haven Memphis

One other must-do website is Slave Haven, an antebellum residence that was as soon as a cease on the Underground Railroad for escaped enslaved individuals searching for freedom within the north. A fast have a look at this residence would possibly make you suppose it’s one thing you’ll be able to both skip or solely spend a couple of minutes trying round and poking your head into the basement the place enslaved individuals waited till it was secure to proceed on their journey. Not so.

For those who take a tour, the caretakers will stroll you thru the Center Passage into slavery, speak to you about how the hymns and quilts handed the message of the path to freedom, educate you on how stereotypes in promoting had been used to maintain individuals of coloration down, and provide you with a glimpse on the bravery and ingenuity it took for the escapees and those who helped them. Plan on spending no less than an hour and be ready to open your self as much as a strong expertise.

Peabody Memphis ducks on roof

For those who go to Memphis, you’ll want to go away time for one thing slightly extra lighthearted, just like the Duck Ceremony on the Peabody Memphis! We loved our keep at this grand dame of motels, conveniently situated to all of the downtown sights. Don’t miss some scrumptious soul meals at Alcenia’s throughout your keep (see my different suggestions on the place to eat in Memphis.)

Civil Rights Websites in Birmingham

16th street baptist church

From Memphis, it’s a few three-and-a-half drive all the way down to Birmingham. In case you are in search of an excellent cease alongside the way in which, take a detour to the faculty city of Oxford, Mississippi. Pop into Square Books for some studying materials and have lunch on the Ajax Diner (however be warned that the parts are enormous so you’ll want to share!)

Birmingham is a important cease on a civil rights highway journey. Whereas town going by a revitalization in spots, Birmingham was really fashioned post-Civil Battle. Its complete historical past is rooted in segregation because it was being constructed. That is additionally why you noticed such resistance to alter and desegregation in Birmingham.

It was completely chilling to take heed to civic leaders in Birmingham espouse their views about how the “negroes had been higher off underneath the white man.” It additionally resonated to see how arduous the white supremacists fought in opposition to change that they felt was being compelled on them by the liberal Yankees stirring up bother – that rhetoric sounds so acquainted to what we’re listening to at this time.

Birmingham Civil rights institute

What was completely different concerning the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in comparison with different civil rights museums is that it’s targeted largely on the civil rights points and motion in Birmingham and Alabama. The reveals begin off with a brief movie that explains how Birmingham was created and the rise of Jim Crow and segregation.

The reveals then attempt to create an understanding of the consequences of segregation by displaying the variations in schooling, employment alternatives, and entry to medical care.

Whereas the reveals aren’t as excessive tech as what you’ll discover in Atlanta or Memphis, the give attention to Alabama gave it a distinct perspective, went deeper into some occasions and points, and strengthened what we had realized in Memphis. There are additionally some superb reveals that concentrate on worldwide human rights and the continued combat for civil rights globally.

Kelly ingram park monument

After visiting the Civil Rights Institute, you’ll be able to stroll throughout the road and go to the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the place the horrific bombing in 1963 took the lives of 4 younger ladies attending Sunday college.

You also needs to take a stroll by Kelly Ingram Park, which is throughout the road from the Heart and Church. The sculptures across the Freedom Stroll by the park are highly effective monuments to the heroes and reminders of the challenges of the combat for equality and civil rights.

Whereas the world across the Civil Rights Institute is fairly quiet, Birmingham has many revitalized neighborhoods so there is no such thing as a scarcity of cute, enjoyable locations to eat throughout your go to. We stayed on the Westin Birmingham, which is a part of the Uptown eating and leisure district.

When you might wish to drive if you’re going out of this space, we had a superb dinner of tapas at Ovenbird, lastly tried Nashville’s scorching hen at Hattie B’s, and located a cute espresso store and breakfast spot at Feast & Forest.

Civil Rights Websites in Selma

Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma AL

I had been warned that the city of Selma is struggling and is pretty depressed so there isn’t so much to see, however I nonetheless wished to see the Edmund Pettus Bridge in particular person. Hannah and I watched the movie Selma earlier than we began our journey and it appeared necessary to stroll throughout the bridge ourselves.

It isn’t too far of a detour to cease in Selma in your means from Birmingham to Montgomery. Sadly, we arrived in a torrential rain storm and we had been soaked to our pores and skin simply strolling as much as the bridge and over to the small Nationwide Park interpretive middle on the foot of the bridge.

So we didn’t fulfill our hope of strolling the span of the bridge. The interpretive middle is small and if in case you have already realized concerning the Selma marches for voting rights in Memphis or Birmingham, then it’s possible you’ll not discover something new, but it surely did reinforce our earlier museum visits.

Selma interpretive center

Civil Rights Websites in Montgomery

Montgomery is about an hour from Selma, or an hour and a half from Birmingham if you’re going direct. Whereas it’s the state capital, town itself additionally feels pretty quiet. There are a number of civil rights-related locations to go to, however on our one-day go to we targeted on the Rosa Parks Museum and the Freedom Rides Museum.

The Rosa Parks Museum is extraordinarily properly performed. It’s possible you’ll want to attend in your subsequent “tour” to begin, however it’s a self-guided museum. They simply begin teams within the expertise on the identical time and after the preliminary video experiences, you might be free to discover by yourself.

The Rosa Parks Museum begins by bringing you again to the occasions of December 1, 1955, when a drained Rosa Parks, who was sitting within the space permitted for African People, refused to surrender her seat for a white particular person as soon as the bus was full. For years, I used to be underneath the misunderstanding that she was sitting within the entrance of the bus the place she wasn’t allowed. Not true.

Rosa Parks Museum and Library

I additionally didn’t understand that federally, this kind of segregation wasn’t allowed however Montgomery was following state legal guidelines. It was not simply eye-opening, the exhibit actually places you within the second when Rosa Parks needed to make this life-changing choice that earned her the title of the “Mom of the Civil Rights Motion.”

From there, the museum follows the timeline of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and all of the challenges concerned. Once more, I didn’t understand that this boycott, which was universally adopted by all African People and plenty of whites within the metropolis, went on for 13 months! Think about the dedication! Since metropolis residents had been so depending on the bus system to get to work, particularly for girls, a boycott of that size was difficult.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was very concerned in organizing carpools to assist these girls get to work. After all, in an effort to derail the boycott, the police harassed these taking carpools, limiting how many individuals may very well be in a automobile and making it unlawful to pay as if it was a taxi service.

Protestors had been additionally not allowed to fulfill in teams and the bus firm tried to sue in opposition to the boycott, as a result of it had such a fiscal impression on their enterprise. Hannah and I each actually loved this museum and it was a visit spotlight.

Subsequent door on the Rosa Park Youngsters’s Library, it’s also possible to board a “time machine” that walks you thru the event of Jim Crow legal guidelines and the historical past of segregation. You’ll step onto a bus, which rocks and shakes as you leap by time, so it’s entertaining for younger children however perhaps not those who get scared too simply.

Freedom Rides museum

After the Rosa Parks Museum, we additionally walked over to the Freedom Rides museum, which is only a small museum, situated in a part of the unique Greyhound bus station the place the Freedom Riders arrived. The museum is small with just some reveals but it surely gives a deep dive into the Freedom Rides and allows you to be taught extra concerning the courageous people that took half in these rides.

We stayed at a Fairfield Inn exterior of Montgomery as a result of we wanted to do some laundry (plus love the free breakfast and night receptions), however in case you want recommendations on where to stay and where to eat in Montgomery, take a look at recommendations from VacationMaybe.

Civil Rights Websites in Atlanta

The ultimate cease on our civil rights tour was Atlanta, only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Montgomery (not together with the time change from Central to Jap.) Because the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the assembly place of many civil rights leaders, Atlanta must be part of any civil rights journey.

Center for Civil and Human Rights lunch counter exhibit

There are two essential websites to go to. The primary is the Center for Civil and Human Rights. Positioned in the identical space because the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola, it’s good to dedicate half a day to go to the Heart for Civil and Human Rights (simply notice that they’re closed on Mondays.) This museum is fashionable and all of the reveals make highly effective use of expertise to coach and evoke an emotional response, particularly the lunch counter exhibit that I referenced above.

The museum is so properly performed but it surely doesn’t change what we had already seen or realized in Memphis, Birmingham and Montgomery. For those who can solely go to Atlanta, then sure, it offers an excellent overview of most of the essential moments of the motion. Nevertheless, I really feel that simply because you’ve got been to the Heart in Atlanta, doesn’t imply you shouldn’t go to different civil rights sights.

We each cherished that it additionally consists of reveals on worldwide human rights. It highlights the defenders of human rights, and showcase the world’s worst human rights offenders. The reveals additionally provide you with meals for thought by speaking concerning the human rights impacts of our shopper selections round items like soccer balls, chocolate, and occasional.

MLK eternal flame

The opposite must-visit spot in Atlanta is the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Nationwide Historic Website. Along with a customer middle, it’s also possible to go to the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the place MLK, and his father earlier than him, was a minister. There may be additionally the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, the place you each Martin and Coretta Scott King are each entombed, and an everlasting flame continues to burn. Enjoying within the background is the audio of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech, offering a shifting area to pay your respects. Down the highway, you’ll be able to even go to MLK Jr.’s beginning residence.

I’ll throw in another factor to do in Atlanta that has to do with the civil rights motion, and that’s the Martin Luther King Jr. Meals Tour with Unexpected Atlanta. Sound shocking? We love exploring cities by meals excursions however this one combines historical past and superb southern meals.

The tour kicked off at Paschal’s, which nonetheless makes use of the identical fried hen recipe as when Martin Luther King, Jr. and his colleagues would meet at Paschal’s to plan protests and even the march on Washington. The tour finishes only a 10-minute stroll to the MLK Nationwide Historic website, rounding out a day of studying and consuming.

John Lewis mural in Atlanta

We spent three nights on the Loews Atlanta in Midtown, giving us loads of time to discover the civil rights websites of Atlanta.

I do know {that a} civil rights highway journey will not be on the high of your bucket listing. Your children (or admit it, even you) might groan when they give thought to a trip crammed with museums and historic sights. However take into consideration what is occurring in our nation at this time. Take a look at the rise of white supremacists and the nationwide consideration these alt-right teams are getting.

We have to take our youngsters to go to these websites. We have to speak to our youngsters about these points. It is just by addressing these points head on that we are able to educate our youngsters the values that we wish to instill and present them why silence and ignorance usually are not choices.


Now is the time to plan a civil rights road trip through the South along the Civil Rights Trail in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia - see how!

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