Journey Through History: 6 Must-Visit Spots on Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail

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Home to museums, interpretative centers, monuments and more, the Alabama Civil Rights Trail highlights the endurance and perseverance of Black Americans throughout U.S. history. From Birmingham to Selma, check out these six must-visit attractions the next time you’re in Alabama.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham)

A Smithsonian affiliate connected to the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, this research center dives deep into the history of the civil rights movement. In the Orientation Theater, you can learn about Birmingham’s history post-Civil War. Check out a replica of the infamous Freedom Riders bus and explore a life-size reconstruction of a segregated city in the 1950s. Other exhibits and galleries highlight historic events like the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1960s protests and demonstrations, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s penning his iconic “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Rosa Parks Museum (Montgomery)

The Rosa Parks Museum is located on Troy University’s campus and features exhibits honoring Rosa Parks’s life, legacy, and the bus boycott she inspired. Check out the many artifacts on display, from Park’s original fingerprint arrest record to a 1950s Montgomery city bus. The museum also features art, court documents and police reports. You’ll also find a restored 1955 station wagon that was used to transport protestors.

Civil Rights Memorial Center (Montgomery)

While visiting Alabama’s capital, a visit to the Civil Rights Memorial Center is a must. Just around the corner from the historic Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church (Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor here), this center is home to The Memorial. Made out of black granite in the shape of a sundial, this memorial has water emerging from the center that flows across a timeline chronicling the events of the civil rights moment and the names of those who died in their fight for justice.

Freedom Rides Museum

In 1961, a group of volunteers known as the Freedom Riders challenged the practice of segregated interstate travel in the southern United States. This museum, situated in the former Greyhound bus station that was the site of an attack on the Freedom Riders, commemorates their efforts. Through its exhibits, follow the Freedom Riders’ journey across the South, view photos of their protests, and gain insight into the people who supported and opposed their mission.

National Voting Rights Museum and Institute (Selma)

If you’re passing through Selma, take a moment to stop by the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute near the Edmund Pettus Bridge. This museum highlights the past and present struggles of voting rights in America and is dedicated to preserving voting rights now and in the future. Learn about the Selma-Montgomery March and see the Footprints Hall of Fame, where you can see the actual footprints of activists who participated in the famed marches. Exhibits also feature clothing, historic photographs and a recreation of a 1960s jail cell.

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site honors the first African American military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps, also known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Start your visit with an award-winning short film detailing the soldiers’ experience during World War II. Next, explore the two large hangars housing the museum, home to training aircraft displays, including a full-sized replica Red-tail P-51 Mustang. Stop by the museum’s bookstore before you leave for some Tuskegee Airmen swag.

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