Montgomery is considered the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, and it’s part of the official U.S. Civil Rights Trail. That means there’s tons of Civil Rights history tied to the city and to the River Region as a whole. Here’s your guide to some of the most moving and interesting Civil Rights attractions and sites in the River Region.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Civil Rights Memorial is an impactful monument that’s engraved with the names of Civil Rights leaders and important historical events related to the Civil Rights Movement. This monument was designed by Maya Lin, who also designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Visitors are encouraged to physically touch the engraved names and reflect on the true meaning and impact of the Civil Rights Movement and its leaders. The Civil Rights Memorial Center (temporarily closed due to COVID-19 as of 06-13-21) is located right across from the Memorial and contains educational exhibits about the Civil Rights Movement, a Wall of Tolerance, and more.
Troy University- Montgomery’s Rosa Parks Museum is committed to honoring Rosa Parks, who famously refused to give up her bus seat and was arrested in 1955, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Museum and Library are located at the very same site where the arrest occurred. Museum visitors will enjoy seeing historical artifacts related to the Bus Boycott and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole, along with a restored bus and a virtual reenactment of Parks’ arrest. Visitors can go on self-guided tours of the Museum or arrange guided tours for large groups.
Fun Fact: Rosa Parks and her family actually attended the dedication of the Museum on December 1, 2000— the 45th anniversary of her arrest.
The Freedom Rides Museum is an official destination on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail that honors the legacy of the Freedom Riders, a group of young people who traveled the South in 1961 as a way to challenge racial segregation. The Museum is housed in the very same Greyhound Bus Station where the Freedom Riders stopped at and were met with mob violence. It’s historically accurate and reflects how many buildings actually looked while racial segregation was being practiced. Guided tours are available for groups of ten or more, but anyone can take a self-guided tour.
The Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum is an 11,000-square-foot facility that’s built near the previous site of a historic slave auction on land where a slave warehouse once stood. Exhibits detail the history of African American enslavement, the horrors of racial lynching, and much more through the use of videos, artifacts, and recreated scenes. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is located less than a mile away from the Museum and can be reached by walking or by shuttle. This six-acre outdoor memorial is “dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.” Sculptures and monuments help visitors visualize the true terrors of racial injustice and inequality. Tours of both the Museum and the Memorial are self-guided.
The Dexter Parsonage Museum (temporarily closed due to COVID-19 as of 06-13-21) is where Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his family lived while he served as pastor at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church from 1954 through 1960. It has been restored and now accurately reflects what it really looked like while Dr. King lived there, original furniture and all! This museum contains portraits of other pastors who lived in the Parsonage, artifacts from King’s life, information about the Civil Rights Movement, and more. Tours can be arranged through the Church.
The Alabama State Capitol is the site where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights ended and where he delivered his famous “How Long, Not Long” speech. Visitors can check out this historic spot and head into the building to see original government offices and chambers, as well as amazing antiques and artifacts. Self-guided tours and tours for groups of fifteen or more are available.
Fun Fact: The Capitol’s Goat Hill Museum Store has a great selection of locally-made gifts and souvenirs!
The Museum of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Archives and History are conveniently located across from the Capitol and contain everything you need to know about the history of Alabama. The Alabama Voices exhibit contains hundreds of artifacts, documents, and audiovisual programs that detail Alabama’s history and highlight the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement.