WHY IT RATES: This capital city has a lot to offer travelers during Black History Month and throughout the entire year. -Codie Liermann, Associate Editor
Montgomery, known as the birthplace of the civil rights movement, invites those seeking a purposeful and meaningful travel experience to visit the destination during Black History Month or during a future stay.
Home to world-changers like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Judge Frank M. Johnson, as well as today's leaders like Bryan Stevenson - author of "Just Mercy" and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) - Montgomery is leading the conversation regarding today's social justice movement by educating, informing and a shining a light on systematic racism in America. With both indoor and outdoor experiences available, this riverfront capital city is offering visitors a safe and social-distanced opportunity to find hope, strength and healing by physically walking the path of those who came before us.
"The current social justice movement has ignited an overwhelming desire and demand for educational and purposeful travel," says Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President Dawn Hathcock. "Montgomery provides visitors with an enlightened perspective that they can't find anywhere else. Our thought-provoking cultural and civil rights experiences remind us of how far we have come and inspire us to continue fighting for change."
From slavery to today's ongoing battle for equality, America's civil rights story is told through a variety of powerful Montgomery experiences, including EJI's Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace & Justice, the Rosa Parks Museum, the Freedom Rides Museum, Martin Luther King's Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and more.
Please see below for a list of civil rights experiences for Black History Month travel:
EJI's Legacy Museum
Displaying the history of slavery and racism in America, The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration is situated on a site in Montgomery where enslaved people were once warehoused. Only a block from one of the most prominent slave auction spaces in America, the Legacy Museum is also steps away from an Alabama dock and rail station where tens of thousands of Black people were trafficked during the 19th century. The museum reopened in October with new exhibits on the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Face masks and temperature checks are required for all visitors before entry into buildings, and the total occupancy has been reduced to 25 percent of capacity.
Outdoor Alternative: The National Memorial for Peace & Justice
Located outdoors on a six-acre park overlooking the city of Montgomery, the National Memorial for Peace & Justice is the nation's first and only memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved African Americans and people terrorized by lynching and humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow.
Rosa Parks Library and Museum
The Rosa Parks Museum at Troy University upholds the accomplishments of individuals associated with the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It includes a permanent exhibit, a time machine, temporary exhibit, archives and more. All visitors are required to wear face masks, and groups must be eight or fewer in number. The museum is also providing virtual tours via Zoom, and interested groups can email or call directly to book.
Outdoor Alternative: Rosa Parks Statue
Unveiled in 2020, this new statue of the civil rights pioneer is now open to the public in downtown Montgomery, only feet from where Rosa Parks boarded the public bus on December 1, 1955. This bronze monument is dedicated to Parks for her courage and pivotal role in the history of the civil rights movement and serves as a reminder for future generations of the struggles many faced as a result of segregation.
The Civil Rights Memorial
Designed by Maya Lin, the creator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, this striking monument chronicles the history of the civil rights movement and is a contemplative place to remember those killed during this turbulent period of history. A circular black granite table records the names of the martyrs and displays the history of the movement in lines that radiate like the hands of a clock. On a curved black granite wall behind the table is engraved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s well-known paraphrase of Amos 5:24, "We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."
Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church
This national historic landmark contains the pulpit from which Martin Luther King Jr. first preached his message of hope and brotherhood. While tours are temporarily closed, visitors can view from outside the church.
Dexter Parsonage Museum
Visitors can see the actual residence where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived with his family from 1954 to 1960. The nine-room Parsonage has been restored to its appearance when Dr. King lived there. In-door tours are closed at this time.
Freedom Rides Museum
An official destination on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, the Freedom Rides Museum tells the story of how 21 young people changed America's history through nonviolent protest. This museum showcases artworks, quotes, photographs and architectural elements. It is currently operating at reduced capacity to safeguard against COVID-19.
Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse
Montgomery invites visitors to take a tour of the historic courtroom where Frank M. Johnson Jr. legalized desegregation of buses in 1956 and, in 1965, ruled that the march from Selma to Montgomery was legal and could continue. Judge Johnson was a beacon of hope for the South during the most turbulent years of the Civil Rights Movement. The courthouse is a site on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, and tours are available by appointment.
Operating since 1917 on Dexter Avenue - the very street where Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat - this hot dog joint was one of few eateries to ignore segregation laws and feed all its hungry customers equally. Chris' Hotdogs is a place where everyone, including young and old, rich and poor, black and white, from any country are welcome and can all dine harmoniously in this wonderful institution. Notable patrons include Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Presidents Bush 41 & 43, Jimmy Stewart, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Clark Gable, Tallulah Bankhead, countless sports stars and every Alabama Governor since 1917.
When Brenda's first opened in 1942, Montgomery was still segregated, and members of the local NAACP held secret meetings in a back garden. There, volunteers taught African Americans how to read and write in order to take the poll tests, created to discourage them from voting. Today, Brenda's is Montgomery's oldest barbecue joint serving legendary flavors.
Barbara Gail's Neighborhood Grille
The Bethune family, who also own and operate Brenda's, opened Barbara Gail's in 2007. Located on the Selma to Montgomery Trail, this long-established diner serves one of the best breakfasts in town.
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