Your information to strolling the US Civil Rights Path

Editor’s observe: This publish has been up to date with new data. It was initially revealed in February 2021.

“We aren’t makers of historical past. We’re made by historical past.”

― Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The battle for civil rights through the Fifties and Nineteen Sixties is such a big a part of the American narrative that the sooner struggles for racial equality might not be absolutely appreciated. That is very true when civil rights by the lens of the Black Lives Matter protests.

To grasp what the civil rights motion achieved, it’s essential to stroll within the footsteps of those that fought for freedom and expertise the civil rights battle the place historical past was made.

The U.S. Civil Rights Path was created in 2018 to protect and share the historical past of some of the transformative occasions in America’s story. The path crosses 15 predominantly Southern states and Washington, D.C., the place pivotal battles for civil rights befell.

The path is expansive; you have to to journey by highway, rail or airplane to start your historic experiences. There are greater than 100 areas from Kansas to Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and up by the Carolinas to Delaware, the place you’ll be able to discover and expertise key moments within the civil rights motion.

Listed here are only a few noteworthy locations to think about in your Civil Rights Path journey.


Birmingham is credited for the rise of the civil rights motion due to a vital occasion on Sept. 15, 1963: the bombing of the sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church.

The explosion killed 4 younger Black ladies who have been attending Sunday faculty. Satirically, the Sunday faculty lesson that day was titled, “A Love That Forgives.”

The church bombing, which occurred three weeks after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., rocked the nation and galvanized civil rights activists.

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As we speak, the sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church stays an lively church, and its basement is a museum that honors the 4 little ladies. The museum additionally tells the church’s story from its institution in 1873. Its centerpiece is the Expertise Room, which incorporates a clock that stopped at 10:22 a.m. — the precise time of the blast.

A memorial statue to the 4 ladies killed within the bombing, in Kelly Ingram Park throughout from the sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church. WASHINGTON POST/HAL YEAGER/GETTY IMAGES

Immediately throughout from the church are two different stops on the Civil Rights Path: the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Kelly Ingram Park.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a contemporary museum devoted to sustaining the story of the civil rights motion in Birmingham and Alabama. The Institute homes many artifacts, together with the door of the jail cell that held Martin Luther King Jr.

Kelly Ingram Park was a staging space for quite a few demonstrations in Birmingham led by King, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and others.

As we speak, the park is a sculpture backyard that shows highly effective paintings to inform emotionally charged tales about Birmingham’s civil rights motion.

Different Civil Rights Path markers in Alabama embrace the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma — the positioning of “Bloody Sunday,” the brutal beatings of voting rights marchers.

The bridge was named after the previous Accomplice brigadier basic, U.S. senator and head of Alabama’s Ku Klux Klan, and it stays a vivid reminder of Jim Crow. Not too long ago, the stays of civil rights icon John Lewis have been carried throughout this identical construction the place he almost misplaced his life on Bloody Sunday.

In Montgomery, you’ll discover the Nationwide Memorial for Peace and Justice. The memorial shows 805 hanging metal rectangles representing counties in the USA the place a lynching was documented.

Additionally in Montgomery, a museum devoted to Rosa Parks sits on the website of her famed arrest on the bus.

Associated: 10 locations the place you’ll be able to study Black historical past in America


The historic Treme neighborhood in New Orleans, lately made well-known by an HBO collection of the identical title, is on the Civil Rights Path.

Treme is the nation’s oldest African American neighborhood. It is also a neighborhood the place free folks of shade may buy land through the 18th and nineteenth centuries when the nation was nonetheless immersed in slavery.

Many museums are devoted to African American life and tradition. Simply steps from the French Quarter, Louis Armstrong Park is a public park that honors the jazz nice.

Associated: Touring to New Orleans to seek out the true Huge Straightforward


A cease alongside the Civil Rights Path in Atlanta showcases the birthplace and burial grounds of civil rights chief Martin Luther King Jr. Vacationers can go to King’s childhood residence and pay respects to him at his burial website on the King Heart.


You possibly can comply with the Freedom Path, which acknowledges folks and locations that had a major position within the civil rights motion. It was created in 2011 to offer a roadmap to Mississippi’s civil rights historical past.

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson is the one museum within the state that covers the whole civil rights motion. Opened in 2017, it affords explicit consideration to the murders of Medgar Evers and Emmett Until.


Close to the banks of Mississippi sits the Nationwide Civil Rights Museum on the former Lorraine Motel, the place Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Clinton Excessive Faculty in Clinton, Tennessee, can be an essential website. It commemorates the Clinton 12 — a bunch of African American college students — who attended their first day of sophistication on Aug. 26, 1956, following the U.S. Supreme Court docket ruling in Brown vs. Board of Schooling.

Whereas Clinton Excessive Faculty turned the primary public highschool within the South to be built-in, it was not a clean transition with protesters and riots, and the college was bombed after hours a yr later.

The Clinton 12 are commemorated with life-size bronze statues that stand in entrance of the Inexperienced McAdoo Cultural Heart on the town.

Associated: In Memphis, the Nationwide Civil Rights Museum honors a tragedy — and highlights an icon of Mid-century journey


A more recent addition to the Civil Rights Path is the Danville Museum of High-quality Arts and Historical past, which is important to the Civil Struggle, in addition to the Civil Rights motion.

This Danville website joins Farmville and Richmond as considered one of three designated path websites in Virginia. Often called “the final capital of the Confederacy” within the Nineteen Sixties, Danville was residence to among the most violent clashes in Civil Rights historical past.

The Accomplice mansion, turned public library, is now the Museum, and in 1960 a bunch of protesters staged a sit-in on the library. Somewhat than admit Black guests, Danville officers selected to shut the library.

Different demonstrations for racial equality adopted, and all have been met with sturdy resistance, with the summer season of 1963 being the worst of the clashes.

Washington, D.C.

The District of Columbia was not a battleground within the battle for civil rights. Nonetheless, there have been fights for civil rights that befell within the U.S. Supreme Court docket, most notably the seminal choice in Brown vs. Board of Schooling that made faculty segregation unlawful.

The Lincoln Memorial can be the place Martin Luther King Jr. gave his well-known “I Have a Dream” speech through the March on Washington — one of many largest human rights protests in American historical past. There’s a marble marker on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial the place King stood.

You’ll discover the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the Nationwide Museum of African American Historical past and Tradition alongside the Nationwide Mall. This Smithsonian museum is the one nationwide museum devoted totally to the African American expertise.

Associated: TPG’s information to Washington, D.C.’s Union Station

Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. PGIAM/GETTY IMAGES

Proceed exploring

There are notable monuments, museums and markers in different states alongside the Civil Rights Path that shouldn’t be neglected. Missouri, Kansas, the Carolinas, Delaware, Florida, Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia all performed an essential position within the civil rights struggles.

The Civil Rights Path continues to develop as a result of new locations and points of interest are always added.

It’s value retracing the trail of “good hassle” to understand what leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis achieved. We should expertise the teachings of the previous to allow them to be preserved for the longer term.

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