MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Many key events in the Civil Rights struggle
took place in Alabama, a fact the state uses in its tourism
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
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.
One key city -- Selma -- has the state's newest attraction, the
Slavery and Civil War Museum, which held its grand opening in
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artifacts and historical documents that tell the story of slavery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
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)
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 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
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
For more information, call (334) 241-8661 or contact the
Montgomery Chamber of Commerce at (800) 240-9452 or visit the Web
In the city of Tuskegee, clients can explore African-Americans'
heritage of achievements in the fields of science, education and
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
For more information, contact the Tuskegee Chamber of Commerce
at (334) 727-6619 or visit www.tuskegeechamber.com.
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
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,
• 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
• 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.