What To Do In Alabama – Civil Rights

Alabama is a land that is treasured with history related to the American civil rights era. The southeastern US state was once marred by segregation policies. These were a product of the Jim Crow laws that required separate facilities for white and black Americans. Racial segregation was enforced in states across the southern part of the United States sometime after slavery was abolished in the country in the mid 1860’s.

Racial segregation lasted in these states until the 1960’s. It was in Alabama that the civil rights movement was formed and brought down the Jim Crow laws that were responsible for the racial segregation. As a result, there are a few attractions within the state that honors the civil rights legacy. History buffs with an interest in America’s civil rights movement will want to visit these places for what to do in Alabama.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

(Photo courtesy of James Mooney via Flickr)

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is located on 16th Street North in the downtown area of Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city. It explores the struggles and triumphs of the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The museum also makes note of Birmingham’s contributions to the civil rights movement. You can also learn about the history of African-American life at the museum.

The museum is divided into four galleries. They are Human Rights, Movement, Confrontation, and Barrier. In addition to these four permanent exhibits, there are two special exhibits and five traveling exhibits at the museum for you to explore. The two special exhibits are Odessa Woolfolk Gallery and Blood Mirror by Jordan Eagles.

The five traveling exhibits currently at the museum are Courage Under Fire, Selma-to-Montgomery, Remember 4 Little Girls: A Gallery of Creative Expressions, Elder Grace, and Living in Limbo. The admission prices for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute are $15 for adults, $6 for college students, and $5 for seniors and youth from grades 4 through 12.

Those who are in grades 3 and under will get free admission. You can go here to buy your tickets for the museum.

Birmingham Hotel Suggestion: Drury Inn & Suites Birmingham Lakeshore Drive

This hotel is located on State Farm Parkway next to Interstate 65 south of downtown Birmingham. There is free breakfast available at the hotel. There is an onsite restaurant and bar called 5:30 Kickback that offer a rotating menu of free evening food and beverages. So, if you get hungry in the evening, you may want to check it out. The hotel houses a hybrid indoor/outdoor heated swimming pool and hot tub.

There is also a fitness center available at the hotel for you to use. All of the hotel rooms and suites have WiFi, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $108 to $178. You can go here to explore your booking options and/or check out some photos.

National Voting Rights Museum

(Photo courtesy of Tony Webster via Flickr)

The National Voting Rights Museum is located on US Route 80 BUS in the historic town of Selma which is about 52 minutes drive west of Montgomery, the state capital of Alabama. This museum is located right next to the iconic Edmund Pettus Bridge. The bridge was the site of a deadly incident known as Bloody Sunday which took place in March of 1965.

That was when the civil rights demonstrators were attacked and brutally beaten by Alabama state troopers with horses, billy clubs, and tear gas. The demonstrators were attempting to march from Selma to Montgomery to fight for voting rights for African-Americans. After the first two attempts to march from Selma to Montgomery failed, a third attempt took place in late March of 1965.

In the third attempt, demonstrators were successful able to march all the way to the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery from Selma in order to demand voting rights for black Americans. At first, their goal for voting rights were limited to the state level in Alabama. However, after the Bloody Sunday incident attracted national and international headlines, the issue of African-American voting rights was tackled at the federal level.

The US Congress passed the Voting Rights Act and former US president Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law in August of 1965. The National Voting Rights Museum is where you can learn all about the historic fight for African-American voting rights in America. The admission fees for the museum are $6.50 for adults and $4.50 for seniors and students.

Rosa Parks Museum

(Photo courtesy of damian entwistle via Flickr)

The Rosa Parks Museum is located on Montgomery Street in downtown Montgomery. The museum is centered around Rosa Parks who was an African-American woman famous for her refusal to get off a front seat on a Montgomery city bus. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the southern US underwent racial segregation throughout the first half of the 20th century and buses were no exception.

Back in Rosa Parks days, African-Americans were required by Montgomery city ordinances to sit in the back of the bus, if told to do so by the bus driver, in order to allow white passengers to sit in the front of the bus. In December of 1955, Rosa Parks was ordered by bus driver James F. Blake to get off her front seat and go to the back of the bus so that a white passenger can sit in that seat.

But she refused to obey the bus driver’s order and was arrested as a result. That sparked the Montgomery bus boycott in order to protest the racial segregation on Montgomery city buses. The bus boycott lasted for one year from December of 1955 to December of 1956.

The bus boycott resulted in a decision by the US Supreme Court that the laws in Alabama and Montgomery that enforced the racial segregation on buses, were unconstitutional. The Montgomery bus boycott marked the beginning of the overall civil rights movement in the US during the 1950’s and 1960’s for equal rights for black Americans.

It also resulted in the emergence of Martin Luther King Jr. as a prominent African-American civil rights leader during that time period. The signature feature of the Rosa Parks Museum is a replica of the city bus that Rosa Parks was on. There are even reenactments of the Rosa Parks bus incident.

The admission prices for the museum are $7.50 for adults and $5.50 for those aged from 4 to 12. Those who are under the age of 4 will have free admission to the museum.

Montgomery Hotel Suggestion: Hampton Inn & Suites Montgomery East Chase

This hotel is located on Eastchase Parkway neighboring Interstate 85 on Montgomery’s east side. There is complimentary breakfast offered at the hotel. Should you get hungry, a few nearby dining options include Urban Cookhouse, Firebirds Wood Fried Grill, and Bonefish Grill. The hotel contains an outdoor swimming pool and a fitness center for you to use.

All of the hotel’s rooms and suites come with WiFi, coffee makers, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $119 to $184. You can head here to browse your booking options and/or view some photos.

So, these are the places that you will want to go to for what to do in Alabama. They will give you a better feel for what the American civil rights movement was like in the 1950’s and 1960’s and the role that Alabama played in it. Also, if you are into rockets and would like to get up and personal with one, the northern Alabama city of Huntsville is your best friend. You can read my previous post to learn more.

What are your thoughts? Have you been to any of these civil rights attractions before? Feel free to leave a comment here.

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