Southern States Try To Cash In On Civil Rights Tourism

Jan 14, 2018

As the nation honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior this weekend, southern states are banding together to promote civil rights tourism. Fourteen states stretching from Kansas to Delaware, including all of the Deep South, are joining to promote the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. The monument highlights about one hundred and thirty sites linked to the modern civil rights movement. The list includes the hotel in Memphis where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated to the birthplace of the confederacy. The joint effort is being unveiled as part of the MLK holiday weekend.

Alabama Public Radio focused on civil tourism for its international award winning series on the 50th anniversary of key moments in the civil rights movement in 1963. You can click below to hear those stories again.

Individual Southern states have used such promotions for years, beginning with a black history trail launched by Alabama in the 1980s, but never before have they joined together in a single push to bolster civil rights tourism, said Lee Sentell, Alabama's tourism director and a leader of the effort. Alabama, which was the site of racial violence and multiple civil rights protests in the early 1960s, has the most locations featured on the trail at twenty nine. That doesn't include a new memorial to lynching victims scheduled to open later this year in Montgomery.

Other locations are less well-known, like schools in Topeka, Kansas, that were part of the Brown vs. Board of Education case that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court decision outlawing segregated schools in 1954, or Howard High School of Technology, part of another desegregation case in Wilmington, Delaware. The trail includes locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. It also features the District of Columbia, with attractions including the Lincoln Memorial, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the U.S. Supreme Court building.