2018 will be noted as a very prominent year for African Americans. It would mark the start of an interactive and multi-dimensional experience that commemorates African American history in a way that has never been done before.

The United States Civil Rights Trail was launched on new year’s day 2018. This is a significant date because it is the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation that was signed by 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 are becoming more aware of, and flocking to, the meaningful destinations that are in 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 civil rights era in the 1950s and 60s. It gives history buffs, civic-minded sightseers and curious travelers an insight into the struggles and achievements of the activists, religious leaders, and everyday people of the movement. Visitors have the wonderful opportunity to take the first steps and collectively experience these important moments that took place in America’s recent past.

The trail has a significant span stretching from Topeka, Kansas, to the Atlantic coast, and Wilmington, Delaware, to New Orleans, Louisiana. The trail’s official website civilrightstrail.com offers a wealth of insight and details to help you create your own civil rights-oriented itinerary. Here are some of the highlights of the trail and why you should visit:

Visitors can spend a moment in silence at the 16th Street Birmingham Church that was bombed September 16, 1963 by white supremacist, 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 sight-seers to feel the history within.

One of the most popular parts of the trail is the ability 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 April 4, 1968 assassination.

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.

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 President 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 newly opened Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi.

This new addition to civil rights tourism has been embraced by many, and offers plenty of rich experiences for all to see during this Black History Month and beyond. Those that appreciate a hands-on approach to history, now have a reason to cross state lines and experience profound and emotional moments that have taken place in a variety of different cities.

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

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.