If you’re looking to visit only one place for its history tied to the Civil Rights Movement, it should be Montgomery, Alabama. The state capital was at the center of many important events like the bus boycott and is close to other places like Selma and Tuskegee.
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The National Memorial for Peace and Justice
Often referred to as the “lynching memorial,” the National Memorial for Peace and Justice is a haunting look at America’s most shameful past. The open-air memorial contains sculptures of slaves being captured as well as stone pillars containing the names of those killed in lynchings. What might surprise visitors is that these crimes aren’t limited to what’s considered to be “the South” and they took place as far as Oklahoma and as recently as 1959. General admission is $5 but combination tickets are available.
The Legacy Museum
Created in partnership with the memorial, the Legacy Museum takes it one step further with exhibits on Middle Passage, slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and modern incarceration. There are interactive spaces where you can see dirt gathered from lynching sites and speak on the phone with a recording of a real prisoner. Museum admission is $8.
Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and Parsonage
Created in 1877 as the Second Colored Baptist Church, a building has been on this site since 1879. The current brick structure of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church was completed in 1889. It’s most associated as the former church of Martin Luther King Jr. who worked here from 1954 to 1960. He organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott from his office and lived with his family at the nearby Parsonage that is now a museum. Tours are available of both the church and Parsonage Museum and church services are open to the public.
Freedom Rides Museum
In 1961, the Freedom Rides initiative began as a way to desegregate the bus systems in the South. Young people of all races from around the country made their way to places like Montgomery to take part. Many were beaten by mobs when they reached their destinations or jailed and buses were firebombed. The former Greyhound station was transformed into the Freedom Ride Museum, which honors the people that rode through this very station. Admission is $5 and free for active-duty military.
Rosa Parks Museum
Rosa Parks made a name for herself when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, signaling the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The site of the bus stop is a short walk from the Rosa Parks Museum, which is managed by Troy University. It features exhibits on her experiences on the bus as well as her life following the movement.
Civil Rights Memorial
The Southern Poverty Law Center work from their Montgomery office to track hate groups and race relations around the United States. On their campus is the Civil Rights Memorial, a memorial designed by Maya Lin of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC. It honors the 41 people that died during the Civil Rights Movement between 1954 and 1968. Among the names are the murdered Freedom Riders, the girls who died in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing, and Martin Luther King Jr.
Looking for a place to stay in Montgomery? The Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa is a short walk from all of these locations.