This blog post was updated on April 14, 2021.

The United States Civil Rights Trail is an interactive and multi-dimensional experience that commemorates African-American history in a way that has never been done before. Additionally, it commemorated the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by former President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 during the Civil War.

Never before have Americans had access to such a broad and comprehensive collection of historical sites that are home to some of the most profound events that took place during the Civil Rights Movement. Members of communities spanning over 14 cities became more aware of meaningful destinations located right at their backyards.

map of civil rights trail locations

Map from civilrightstrail.com

The trail features well over 100 famous and lesser-known landmarks from the 1950s and 60s civil rights era. It gives history buffs, civic-minded sightseers, and curious travelers alike an insight into the struggles and achievements of the activists, religious leaders, and everyday people who created this movement. It has a significant span, stretching from Topeka, Kansas to the Atlantic coast, and from Wilmington, Delaware to New Orleans, Louisiana. The official website of the United States Civil Rights Trail offers a wealth of insight and details to help you create your own civil rights-oriented itinerary. Here are some of its mains highlights!

This addition to civil rights tourism has been embraced by many, offering plenty of rich experiences for all to see during Black History Month and beyond. Therefore, those who appreciate a hands-on approach to history have an excellent reason to look for some cheap domestic flights to any of the states mentioned below in order to experience some of the profound emotional moments that transpired in all of these cities.

Visitors can spend a moment in silence at the 16th Street Birmingham Church that was bombed on September 16, 1963 by white supremacists, tragically killing four young black girls. The church has become a somber reminder that really highlights a sense of reverence and gratitude to the innocents who lost their lives during the painful struggle for justice.

You can also walk across the same bridge in Selma, Alabama, where state police violently attacked voting rights demonstrators on what has sadly been remembered as Bloody Sunday — another poignant signpost on the road to equality.

Seeing these events in history books and on television is one thing, but to actually walk the same path while imagining such a profound turn of events, allows sightseers to feel the history within.

The trail also allows you to explore the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta. You can follow up with a tour of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was shot. The launch of the freedom trail also marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968.

The Civil Rights Trail initiative enlightens people about experiences that they may have thought were no longer an option. Many will be surprised to discover that they can take a look inside of a portion of an actual Woolworth’s department store that has been preserved in Greensboro, North Carolina. This is where four black college students bravely occupied the “whites only” lunch counter stools for what is now recognized as America’s first sit-in.

You may also like: A Weekend Guide to Black History and Culture in Washington D.C.

The Little Rock Nine

Image via civilrightstrail.com

Arkansas proudly hosts six historical sites on the trail, including Little Rock Central High School where 9 African-American students (The Little Rock Nine) were integrated into an all-white population. This was no easy feat, as former President Dwight D. Eisenhower had to deploy thousands of federal troops to enforce court-ordered school integration.

The trail also includes four major museums that were built to interpret the movement: The Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi.

Were you or close loved ones involved in the Civil Rights Movement? We would love to hear about your experiences at any of the places that are now part of the Civil Rights Trail.

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About The Author

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, curator, and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, tikichris.com. Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world. He's called London home since 2001.