The Civil Rights movement began in Alabama's capital, Montgomery, where a yearlong bus boycott ended in a Supreme Court decision to integrate public transportation in 1956. Today, you can watch a re-enactment of that historical event at the Rosa Parks Library and Museum.
The Civil Rights Memorial, the nation's first monument to the Civil Rights movement, honors those who died in the struggle. It was designed by Maya Lin (who also designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.) and features an interactive interpretive center that expands on the stories of the Civil Rights movement martyrs and the topic of social justice. Be sure to visit Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor in the 1950s, and the Dexter King Parsonage, where Dr. King and his family lived during many events of the Civil Rights movement.
The first capital of the Confederacy (where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president in 1861), Montgomery is also where the first electric streetcar operated (in 1886) and where the Wright Brothers established the first school of powered flight (in the early 1900s). Alabama's Capitol building, built in 1853, has been extensively restored.
Another famous Montgomerian is country-music legend Hank Williams Sr. After Williams' meteoric career ended with his death in 1953 (at age 29), he was laid to rest in Montgomery's Oakwood Cemetery Annex. The Hank Williams Memorial there is one of the holy shrines of country music, though aside from the tombstones of Hank and his ex-wife Audrey, there's not much to see. Fans may also want to make the 60-mi/95-km drive to Georgiana, the small town where the singer spent his early years.
At the Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park, you can visit the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts or attend performances of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, which stages highly regarded performances year-round.
The final battle of the Creek War (during the War of 1812), led by Gen. Andrew Jackson, was fought at Horseshoe Bend in Daviston (65 mi/105 km northeast of Montgomery). At the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, you can tour the battlefield by car or hike the trail (phone 256-234-7111; http://www.nps.gov/hobe). Fort Toulouse/Fort Jackson, located in Wetumpka (10 mi/16 km northeast of Montgomery), was the site of the signing of the Treaty of Fort Jackson, the formal end of the Creek War. The 165-acre/70-hectare site hosts an authentic re-enactment, known as Alabama's Frontier, in November.
For more information about activities in Montgomery, visit the town's Web site at http://www.visitingmontgomery.com. Montgomery is 90 mi/145 km south of Birmingham.