Embark on a journey of discovery and understanding when you and your family visit the destinations and landmarks that play a part in the American civil rights story.
Here are five to consider:
1. Rosa Parks Museum, Montgomery, Ala.
“In 1955, when I was arrested ... I had no way of knowing what the future held,” observed the woman who would become known as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement when this museum was named in her honor. Set in front of the bus stop where the historic moment took place, the Rosa Parks Museum features a video re-enactment of her refusal to give up her seat to a white man and other interactive presentations. A children’s wing provides age appropriate history lessons for youngsters.
2. Alexandria, Va.
Rising on the banks of the historic Potomac River, Alexandria, founded in 1746, is steeped in African-American history. Visit the city to seek an understanding of civil rights from colonial times to the Civil War, illuminated by a compelling collection of sites. Originally the segregated library for Alexandria's African-American residents, the Alexandria Black History Museum documents the local and national African-American experience through exhibits, speakers and interactive programs. Visit the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center to learn about those enslaved at nearby Mount Vernon. This exhibit explores household furnishings, artworks, archaeological discoveries and documents, and demonstrates how closely intertwined the lives of the Washington family members were with those they enslaved. Walking tours of Old Town Alexandria, offered by Manumission Tour Company, provide additional insight by sharing little-known stories from the era of slave trade.
3. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Families can seek ongoing inspiration from the words and work of clergyman and civil rights leader Dr. King, through a visit to this monument in Potomac Park. Sixteen quotes extracted from his eloquent messages of love and tolerance can be found along the granite wall facing the Tidal Basin. Site tours and Junior Ranger badge activities are available and can help extend the experience for children.
4. Natchez, Miss.
The story of slavery and African-American culture in Natchez is one of the most complex threads of the city’s multifaceted history. Visitors can delve into the past at the Museum of African American History & Culture on Main Street. Consider a double-decker bus tour (hop on and hop off at various locations) that launches at the Natchez Visitors Center and rolls through the Southern town, passing by many of the most significant landmarks. Narration is provided from the point of view of two slaves who lived during the difficult era when slave trading at local slave markets was a part of daily life.
5. The National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tenn.
The museum complex includes the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated as well as the building where James Earl Jones fired the shot. The museum seeks to open a dialogue about a history that spans the dark era of slavery through the modern civil rights movement. A family guide is offered to assist adults in discussing the sensitive topics and events that are addressed within the museum.
(Lynn O’Rourke Hayes (www.LOHayes.com) is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer. Gather more travel intel on Twitter @lohayes, Facebook, or via FamilyTravel.com