MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A civil rights trail that links famous landmarks all across the United States was officially announced on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
It's been in the works for two years, and now visitors can literally walk in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr. and other African American activists.
"The goal is to have tourists cross state lines and visit different civil rights sights," Lee Sentell, Director of Alabama Tourism, said.
The trail includes almost 130 museums, churches, courthouses and other civil rights landmarks across the United States. The site stretches from Topeka Kansas to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Almost 30 of the sites are in Alabama. Montgomery has ten, Selma has seven, and Birmingham and Tuskegee have four each.
"There are 12 states that have come together to promote civil rights as a group and about a fourth of all of these sights in the Civil Rights Trail are here in Alabama," Sentell said.
"Alabama is known as the centerpiece for civil rights in America because so much happened here in Selma and Montgomery and Birmingham and even in some smaller towns," Sentell said. "It's a part of our identity and some of it is stuff we're not terribly proud of, what happened 50 years ago, but it's an important part of American history and people want to learn about this," Sentell said.
Gov. Kay Ivey made the official announcement of the Civil Rights trail on MLK Day at King's former church.
"It's great to be a part of a legacy by divine providence that God placed in this place, but it's also greater to display the love Dr. King brought to the movement and really that's really what it's all about and so I'm excited about the fact that not only do we celebrate one whom God used but we also celebrate here at Dexter the King of Kings as well as King," Pastor Cromwell Handy said, the current pastor at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Martin Luther King's former church.
By connecting the sites for the first time, it makes it easier to plan a multi-state, historical road trip.
"There's a lot to see and it's impossible for somebody to see and do it all in one trip so the goal is to encourage people to cross state lines and to see other parts of the south that they haven't seen before," Sentell said. "There's some nice itineraries because you can't learn everything about civil rights by just going to one site," Sentell said.
Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean, and vice president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, Joseph Craver each speak at the event.
Below are the sites in Alabama:
- Freedom Riders National Monument
- 16th Street Baptist Church
- Bethel Baptist Church
- Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
- Kelly Ingram Park
- Old Courthouse Museum
- Alabama State Capitol
- City of St. Jude
- Civil Rights Memorial Center
- Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church
- Dexter Parsonage Museum
- First Baptist Church on Riley Street
- Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse
- Freedom Rides Museum
- Holt Street Baptist Church
- Rosa Parks Museum
- The Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center
- Brown Chapel AME Church
- Edmund Pettus Bridge
- Lowndes Interpretive Center
- National Voting Rights Museum and Institute
- Selma Interpretive Center
- Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail
- The Sullivan and Richie Jean Sherrod Jackson Foundation and Museum
- Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama
- Butler Chapel AME Zion Church
- Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
- Tuskegee History Center
- Tuskegee University