Sites mark state's role in Civil Rights struggle

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Many key events in the Civil Rights struggle took place in Alabama, a fact the state uses in its tourism marketing.

Twenty years ago, Alabama became the first state to produce a Black Heritage Guide, said Frances Smiley, assistant director and group tour coordinator for the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel.

That first guide listed 58 sites; the latest edition details 314, including museums, schools, monuments, churches, battlefields and "other significant landmarks in the struggle for racial equality," Smiley noted. For a free copy, call (334) 242-4169.

The bureau has run an annual multicultural fam trip for 15 years (the next one will be in September), and Smiley said she has seen this market grow substantially in the past 10 years.

Selma

One key city -- Selma -- has the state's newest attraction, the Slavery and Civil War Museum, which held its grand opening in June.

The museum still is adding displays showcasing memorabilia, artifacts and historical documents that tell the story of slavery from an African-American viewpoint. For additional information, visit the Web at www.slaveryandcivilwar.org.

During the Civil Rights movement, "Selma was about the right to vote," said a spokeswoman for the Selma Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The statue Police Dog Attack depicts a barking police dog in Birmingham's Kelly Ingram Park. The city's National Voting Rights Museum documents the struggle for black suffrage with photographic and video exhibits, personal notes and artifacts focusing on what ordinary people -- the "foot soldiers" of the movement -- experienced, the spokeswoman said.

In fact, two-thirds of the museum's board participated in "Bloody Sunday," the march for voting rights that was interrupted by Alabama state troopers wielding billyclubs and tear gas.

For additional information, visit www.voterights.org or call (334) 418-0800.

At the Old Depot Museum, clients can view artifacts from early African-American leaders such as Benjamin Sterling Turner, the ex-slave who became Selma's first congressman during Reconstruction. For additional information, call (334) 874-2197.

The nation's newest National Historic Trail (Highway 80) begins in Selma and traces the route of civil rights marchers to Montgomery, the state capital.

For additional details, contact the Selma Chamber of Commerce at (800) 45-SELMA or visit the Web at www.selmaalabama.com.

Montgomery

Montgomery was the site of another civil rights milestone -- the African-American boycott of the city's bus line in 1955, which led to the Supreme Court's ruling that segregation on buses was unconstitutional.

The Rosa Parks Museum opened on Dec. 1, 2000, 45 years to the day that Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus and move to the rear, starting the historic bus boycott.

Exhibits -- including a replica of the bus -- tell the story of those early days in African-Americans' struggle for equal rights.

For more information, call (334) 241-8661 or contact the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce at (800) 240-9452 or visit the Web at www.montgomerychamber.com.

Tuskegee

In the city of Tuskegee, clients can explore African-Americans' heritage of achievements in the fields of science, education and aviation.

On the campus of Tuskegee University, park rangers provide guided tours of "The Oaks," the former home of the school's founder, Booker T. Washington.

Washington is also honored with an on-campus monument, "Lifting the Veil of Ignorance," which symbolizes the former slave's dedication to education.

Also on campus, the George Washington Carver Museum showcases the work of Carver, the agricultural chemist who developed a crop rotation method for farmers and 325 different uses for peanuts.

Carver bequeathed his life savings to establish a research institute at Tuskegee University. Both Washington and Carver are buried on campus in the Tuskegee Cemetery.

At the General Daniel "Chappie" James Center for Aerospace Science Engineering -- named after the first African-American four-star general -- the exhibit "Black Wings" chronicles the training of the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black fighter pilot and fighter support groups that fought in World War II.

A national air museum also will be built in the airmen's honor at Moton Field, Tuskegee Municipal Airport, where the famed aviators trained.

For more information, contact the Tuskegee Chamber of Commerce at (334) 727-6619 or visit www.tuskegeechamber.com.

Birmingham

Birmingham's Civil Rights District includes the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Kelly Ingram Park, the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which debuted in 1993, offers visitors the chance to explore the state's role in the Civil Rights movement.

However, the 16th Street Baptist Church might be the city's most famous civil rights landmark.

In the basement of the church on the morning of Sept. 15, 1963, a bomb exploded, killing four African-American schoolgirls who were preparing for that morning's service.

The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and the Carver Theater also are within the district.

The museum honors jazz artists with ties to the state of Alabama. Exhibits feature the likes of Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and Erskine Hawkins and examples of their music and its influence.

The Eddie Kendricks Memorial Park honors the memory of the Birmingham native who became famous as a singer with the Motown group the Temptations. He died in Birmingham in 1992.

For additional information, call (800) 458-8085 or visit www.bcvb.org.

Heritage, cultural events set for 2003

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama is the site for many African-American heritage events throughout the year, including:

• January: Martin Luther King holiday celebration, Montgomery. Festivities honoring the civil rights leader's birthday include a parade culminating on the steps of the State Capitol building.

• February: Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. Special exhibit of African and African-American artists beyond what is included in its permanent collection.

• March: Bridge Crossing Jubilee, Selma. A weekend of events (March 7 to 9) featuring the music, stories, sounds and sites of the voting rights movement.

• May: Memorial Day Fly-In, Tuskegee. An annual three-day event (May 24 to 26) where flying enthusiasts participate in such activities as aerobatic flying demonstrations.

• September: Annual Carver Sweet Potato Festival, Tuskegee. Commemorates George Washington Carver's research into their crop by showcasing new products, holding contests and selling sweet potatoes (Sept. 20).

Alabama Jazz and Blues Federation River Jam, Montgomery. A one-night music festival set for late September.

• October: African Extravaganza, Selma. A celebration of black heritage featuring African food and crafts to be held Oct. 11.

For more information, call (800) ALABAMA or visit www.touralabama.org. -- P.F.

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