Saturday, April 9, 2022

Civil Rights Trail


Map drawn by my children, so they could keep track of where we were going.

There are many places I have on my "that would be really cool to see" list. At one point in time, I had wanted to do the Civil War Trail, however in homeschooling my children, I began to see how important it was for my children to learn civil rights above all else. As we embarked on another homeschooling year back in September, I decided then that during our Black History Month unit, visiting some stops along the Civil Rights Trail was a must.

I used this site to help plan our trip. It helped with route planning and gave quick summaries of our stops, which was perfect for refreshers since most of the events we really dug into last school year. We kept our stops to walking tours and quick, outdoor stops. Part of this was due to having the dog with us (and shocking, none of the museums are dog friendly), the other part was due to time constraints. If we had added in all of the museums, it would have taken us months to finish the trail! 

Our stops included:

  • Lorraine Motel (Memphis, TN)
  • Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma jail, and historic downtown area (Selma, AL)
  • Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail
  • Alabama State Capital, Civil Rights Memorial Center, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Rosa Parks Museum, Freedom Rides Museum, Rosa Parks Museum, The National Memorial For Peace And Justice, The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Incarceration (Montgomery, AL)
  • Kelly Ingram Park, 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail (Birmingham, AL)

Since we were driving through late at night, we didn't make our planned stops in Jackson, MS, but I highly recommend the Mississippi Freedom Trail. I am disappointed we weren't able to make that one happen. Our route went from Des Moines, IA to Memphis, TN, thru Jackson, MS to New Orleans area. While we didn't make any stops this trip, there are numerous plantations around the NOLA vicinity that would be an excellent add to a Civil Rights Trail road trip. From NOLA area we went to Selma, Montgomery, and ended in Birmingham. While we did other things on this road trip, making just these stops took us six days.

I want to reiterate that we did not step foot into a museum on our venture. We did go to the outside of the museums, as a lot of them are located in the spot or area where a protest, bombing, etc. took place. Simply seeing the places was incredibly powerful and helped the minis tie in the importance each place holds in history.

We all had favorite stops along the trail. The Edmund Pettus Bridge had me in tears as I stood on the bridge smiling for a picture (look closely, you may be able to see them in the picture below). Kelly Ingram park was a favorite for all of us, but it was also the most emotionally draining. The sculptures throughout the park paint a very real picture of the events that took place in that exact spot. Those events included children and that resonated with my kids, who got teary eyed reading the plaques throughout the park. From there we did the Heritage Trail, which tied into the park and was equally as powerful. 

The Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Alabama State Capital, the site of MLK Jr.'s speech and the end of the march from Selma to Montgomery.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church where many meetings were held during the bus boycott.

Civil Rights Memorial Center. All of this is within walking distance of the capital in Montgomery.

A walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. On the other side was a Civil Rights Memorial Park that explained the lynching's that took place in the city, as well as a tribute to Bloody Sunday and community leaders.

Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham.

When we get the chance, I would love to head back to Memphis, TN and do the Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, as well as the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, AL. Another important lag in the Civil Rights Trail is in Atlanta, GA. We were in Atlanta three years ago, so I did not add it into this trip as it would have extended our time on the road. Atlanta has some must stops including the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, the APEX Museum, and the Center for Civil and Human Rights. 

Heading out for a vacation on the Civil Rights Trail isn't exactly relaxing, but it is thought provoking and very emotional while making us realize we, as human beings, still have a lot of work to do.