Embark on a journey of discovery and understanding when you and your family visit these destinations and landmarks that play a part in the American civil rights story. Here are five to consider:
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Families can seek ongoing inspiration from the words and work of clergyman and civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., through a visit to this monument in West Potomac Park. The memorial, located adjacent to the National Mall near the FDR Memorial and framing views of the Tidal Basin, features quotes extracted from the leader’s eloquent speeches emphasizing four of King’s primary messages: justice, democracy, hope and love. Site tours and Junior Ranger badge activities are available and can help extend the experience for children.
National Memorial for Peace and Justice, Montgomery, Ala.
Open since April 2018, the 6-acre memorial was conceived with the hope of creating a meaningful site where people could gather, learn and reflect on America’s history of racial inequality. Using sculpture, art and design to contextualize racial terror, the outdoor memorial, as well as the nearby Legacy Museum, were the inspiration of Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. Both are designed to provide comprehensive content about the legacy of slavery through contemporary issues including the mass incarceration of African American men and the current proliferation of mass shootings. A shuttle service runs between the museum and the memorial.
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 and 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.
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 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 and archaeological discoveries, and demonstrates how 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 more insight about the era of slave trade.
National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tenn.
The museum complex includes the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated as well as the building where James Earl Ray 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.