Why We Must Journey
It was in Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma that the Movement’s national leadership took shape and tens of thousands of people came together to advance the cause of justice against remarkable odds and violent resistance. Our journey will take us to these three cities to visit several places that housed and nurtured the movement throughout the era.
We’ll have the special opportunity to speak first-hand with veterans of the struggle, many of whom have worked tirelessly to preserve this important cultural heritage in the decades since. We’ll also visit and experience the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice–two institutions that have taken diverse and complementary approaches to telling the rich and moving stories of the Civil Rights Movement and of America’s history of racial inequality.
Our Journey Day By Day
Day 1 – Monday – Arrival into Birmingham
Welcome to Birmingham independently. If by air, meet your Tour Manager and transfer to your hotel for the night. Today is an arrival day so dinner is at your own expense. There are many wonderful restaurants here as Birmingham has become a city of foodie delights! We’ll include a list of suggested restaurants near the hotel closer to your departure date.
Day 2 – Tuesday – Discover America’s most segregated city where Bull Connor reigned and where Fred Shuttlesworth prayed.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once described Birmingham as “probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States.” In early 1963, Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) were invited to join the campaign in Birmingham to integrate the downtown shopping and government district, including the desegregation of downtown stores, the institution of fair hiring practices in shops and city employment, the reopening of public parks (closed to block integration), and the creation of a bi-racial committee to oversee the desegregation of Birmingham’s public schools. Early marches were led by Miles College students and Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, leader of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights.
Beginning in early May 1963, movement leaders accepted the idea of including children in the non-violent marches. The first “Children’s Crusade of 1963” took place on May 2 and involved hundreds of students who marched their way to jail. Eugene “Bull” Connor, Birmingham’s Public Safety Director led the police and fire departments in a shockingly violent response to the marchers – using dogs and fire hoses to terrorize the young demonstrators – and brought new national attention to the Civil Rights Movement.
This morning travel to the nearby Vulcan Park and Museum perched on Red Mountain looking down at the city of Birmingham. Meet Dr. Martha Bouyer, our partner with the Alabama African American Heritage Sites Consortium as she paints a vivid picture of how segregation in Birmingham unfolded.
From here you travel to the Birmingham neighborhoods and sites that were at the center of the Civil Rights Movement…such as the Birmingham Jail (where MLK penned the letter from the Birmingham Jail), Dynamite Hill, Linn Park, Phillips High School, Freedom Riders attack site, and the Black Business District. Learn why Dr. King chose to come to Birmingham and how important mass meetings were for the movement by visiting the historic Bethel Baptist Church and Shuttlesworth parsonage bombing site.
Lunch is on your own today at Niki’s West Historic Cafeteria. Here enjoy a relaxed and inviting atmosphere with delicious, old fashioned southern food. Try the cafeteria line where changing daily fare incorporates such entrée dishes as country fried steak, chicken pot pie, and lemon-pepper catfish with fresh and colorful fruits and vegetables. They also have an à la carte menu for more seafood, steaks, and a few traditional Greek meals. Save room for dessert with a variety of homemade cakes, banana pudding, cobblers, and many pies to choose from—lemon meringue, apple, sweet potato, chocolate cream, cherry, pecan, and more. The experience of dining at Niki’s West is one many first time visitors to Birmingham get, as it is a remarkably popular long-time “meat-and-three” cafeteria open in Birmingham since 1957.
Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
On September 15, 1963, members of the Ku Klux Klan planted a bomb at the church that exploded just after Sunday services, killing four young girls and generating international outrage that provided the impetus for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In May 1963, the church was the staging site for Project C, the Birmingham campaign where hundreds of young, peaceful protestors were jailed following confrontation with police using dogs and fire hoses.
After lunch, visit Kelly Ingram Park where police commissioner Bull Connor ordered police to use fire hoses and dogs on children and adults who were gathering to march. Across from the park visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute as well as the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Sixteenth Street is well known for the Sunday, September 15, 1963 bombing that killed four young girls who were attending church. That event – memorialized in songs by Nina Simone, Joan Baez, John Coltrane, and others – shocked the global conscience. It was an important turning point in the Civil Rights Movement leading to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
We’ll then visit Historic Bethel Baptist Church, which was led by Reverend Shuttlesworth from 1953-1961. The church and parsonage of Bethel Baptist were both bombed four times between 1956 and 1962—part of a string of 50 bombings that led to the notorious nickname “Bombingham” for the city. As a note, this is where Dr. Bouyer is a member and serves her community and likely you will also visit with Reverend Thomas Wilder, Jr. who is also a leader in the Birmingham community.
Return to your hotel to freshen up for dinner, which is at your own expense at one of the fine restaurants around the city. The bus will make scheduled drop off and pickup at Five Points South in the Entertainment district. There are dozens of restaurants that are walkable in this area.
Meals included: B
Day 3 – Wednesday – The Trail to Selma
Birmingham and Selma to Montgomery
This will be a very meaningful day. Depart after breakfast for the drive 1.5 hours to Selma located in central west Alabama. Here you meet local foot soldier and author T. Dianne Harris, your local guide.
Begin your visit to Selma with a welcome from activist and speaker Joyce O’Neal as she leads a tour and discussion of the church, where she also serves her community here at Brown Chapel AME Church. It was at Brown Chapel that both Harris and O’Neal participated in the 1965 Voting Rights demonstrations. Both share their experiences as a teenaged foot soldier in the movement.
Brown Chapel served as headquarters for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the 1965 Voting Rights Campaign. It is was the starting point for voting rights marches including the events of March 7, 1965 “Bloody Sunday” when 600 marchers were violently turned back by State Troopers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Two days later, 2,000 marchers approached the state troopers blocking the bridge but turned back and this day became known as Turn Around Tuesday. Two weeks later, under federal protection, 4,000 marchers crossed the bridge and by the time they reached the state capitol five days later, numbers had grown to 25,000.
Tabernacle Baptist Church in the next stop where you are hosted by Dr. Verdell Lett Dawson for a tour and presentation about the church whose members were active in the Dallas County Voters League which invited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Selma in 1964. Afterwards, enjoy traditional southern hospitality in the church fellowship hall for lunch featuring staples of southern cooking followed with a presentation about the nearby Gee’s Bend quilters. The nationally recognized quilts of Gee’s Bend are created by a group of women and their ancestors who live or have lived in the isolated African American hamlet of Gee’s Bend which is along the Alabama River and downstream from Selma. The quilts of Gee’s Bend are considered to be unique and one of the most important African American visual and cultural contributions to the history of art within the United States.
From here, enjoy a rolling tour through the interesting neighborhoods of Selma, pass the First (Colored) Baptist Church, host to the Dallas County Voters League, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and frequent site of mass meetings. Also see the Sullivan and Richie Jean Sherrod Jackson Home Museum where Dr. King and other prominent leaders stayed and strategized while in Selma.
Conclude your visit in Selma with a retelling of events by Dianne Harris and a walk across the Edmund Pettis Bridge.
Depart Selma along the Selma to Montgomery march route. Along the way stop for a visit to the Lowndes Interpretive Center, which is run by the National Park Service. The location is near a campsite and the place where Ms. Viola Liuzzo was shot and killed on the day the Selma to Montgomery march concluded. Mrs. Liuzzo was a Caucasian civil rights activist from Michigan and mother of five.
Near here you will see, but may not be able to go inside, the Matthew and Emma Jackson Freedom Complex. The small home served as the headquarters where Stokely Carmichael, SNCC, and local voting rights workers launched the Black Panther Freedom Party. It provided a safe place for Carmichael to live and work.
Arrive into Montgomery this evening and take time to check-in and freshen up.
Dinner tonight is at your own expense in one of the many nearby restaurants all within a block or two from your hotel.
Meals included: B,L
Day 4 – Thursday – The Movement for Equality
This morning you visit the Civil Rights Memorial and is reminiscent of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in that it contains the names of Civil Rights martyrs. This is a sensory visit and you can touch and feel the displays. You are welcomed here by a speaker from the Southern Poverty Law Center. 2021 marks 50 years that the Southern Poverty Law Center has been fighting hate, teaching tolerance and seeking justice in America. Before departing the memorial, visit the Wall of Tolerance, and if interested, take the pledge and add your name to the Wall along with other world leaders and celebrities.
From here a short ride yields Centennial Hill. This was the center of African American commerce and society in the 1950’s. Located here is the Dexter Avenue/King Parsonage where Dr. Martin Luther King’s and family resided and raised his family. It was also the location that segregationists bombed the home and where King said the hand of God shaped him into the Movement’s leader. Next door is the Dr. Richard Harris House which provided a haven to Freedom Riders and just down the street is the iconic Ben Moore Hotel, featured in the historic ‘Green Book’ for African American travelers of the day. Both the hotel and the Malden Brothers Barber Shop were the central points for communication between community leaders and the community itself in the 1950’s. You will visit the parsonage and stroll down the street as you learn more about this area’s importance in the Civil Rights Movement.
Lunch is in downtown Montgomery followed by a visit from speaker and author Peggy Wallace Kennedy as she tells of her experiences and a new awakening. She has been widely hailed as the “symbol of racial reconciliation” (Washington Post). In the summer of 1963, though, she was just a young girl watching her father stand in a schoolhouse door as he tried to block two African American students from entering the University of Alabama. This man, former governor of Alabama and presidential candidate George Wallace, was notorious for his hateful rhetoric and his political stunts. But he was also a larger-than-life father to young Peggy, who was taught to smile, sit straight, and not speak up as her father took to the political stage. At the end of his life, Wallace came to renounce his views, although he could never attempt to fully repair the damage he caused. But Peggy, after her own political awakening, dedicated her life to spreading the new Wallace message―one of peace and compassion.
After lunch, visit with Wanda Battle at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Dr. King was pastor during the bus boycott. It’s at this church that Dr. King had his first public forays into movement leadership through his work as chairman of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), which was formed in December 1955 to coordinate the boycott. The election occurred at Mt. Zion AME Zion Church which will be pointed out from atop the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. At MIA, Dr. King worked closely with Reverend Ralph Abernathy, pastor of First Baptist Church, commonly known as the Brick-a-Day Church, because during construction the pastor called for congregants to make it their goal of bringing a brick a day to the church to contribute to its walls.
Afterwards return to your hotel for time to reflect and freshen up.
Dinner tonight is at your own expense in one of the many nearby local restaurants.
Meals included: B,L
Day 5 – Friday – Exploring Injustice and Change
This morning visit the Legacy Museum, which uses interactive media, sculpture, videography and exhibits to immerse you in the sights and sounds of the domestic slave trade, racial terrorism and the Jim Crow South of years past.
From here visit nearby Court Square, one of the most significant pieces of property for Civil Rights in the world. Court Square is the sight of former slave markets, adjacent to the square is the Winter Building and from there the telegraph to fire on Fort Sumter was given which effectively began the US Civil War, and the square is also the site of where Rosa Parks boarded the bus which began the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Next visit the Rosa Parks Museum which tells the story of Ms. Parks. On December 1, 1955, Ms. Rosa Parks, an active leader in the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—was arrested for refusing to vacate her seat for a white passenger. The timing of her arrest aligned with plans from a number of individuals and organizations who were hoping to test Montgomery’s segregation laws in court. The Women’s Political Council, a civic organization for African American women, was the first to call for a boycott—a controversial call that was later adopted broadly within Montgomery and neighboring African American communities. The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted from 1955-1956 and is one of the events that marks the beginning of the Modern Civil Rights Movement. It also launched many of its leaders to national prominence, including Ms. Parks and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Afterwards you visit the recently opened Equal Justice Pavilion for lunch. Enjoy southern cuisine at the cafeteria style Pannie-George’s Restaurant at your own expense. The Pavilion also hosts a coffee shop, reflecting pool, and the EJI gift shop.
Next visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice opened to the public on April 26, 2018 and is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.
After the visit to the Memorial and across the street at the Peace and Justice Center, join staff from EJI as they discuss what EJI believes and how they advance equal justice for all in the US.
About 3:45pm today, return to your hotel for time to rest or pack for tomorrow’s journey home. Dinner tonight will be at your own expense, there are many options within walking distance.
Meals included: B
Day 6 – Saturday – Tuskegee and return to Birmingham
Depart Montgomery and travel east to the historic town of Tuskegee, Alabama, home of a great deal of African American history.
First a visit to the Tuskegee Airmen Historic Site commemorating the contributions of African American aviators of World War II. Here we learn about the history of Moton Field, the site of primary flight training for the pioneering pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
Next a visit to the campus of Tuskegee University for a group picture at the monument of Booker T. Washington lifting the veil of ignorance. Tuskegee remains an extremely important center of learning as it was during the days of Booker T. Washington. Washington was born into slavery and overcame immense challenges to become educated formally and was the first principal of what later became Tuskegee University. Washington’s philosophy was to provide opportunities for African Americans through education in the crafts and industrial skills combined with the cultivation of the virtues of patience, enterprise, and thrift to attain economic security.
Washington’s idea was to consistently and effectively build the social and economic level of African Americans over time within the confines of the system available to them. Although he clashed with other African American leaders on this approach, between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African-American community across the country.
Washington recruited the best and the brightest to come and teach here, including George Washington Carver, the institute’s most celebrated professor whose work changed southern agriculture. Carver’s innovations in agriculture, especially with peanuts, were important in the South’s economic growth.
A celebratory farewell lunch and southern hospitality is in store for you at the restored antebellum home of Ms. Sandy Taylor, a retired Superintendent of the National Park Service. Join Sandy and some of her friends for a locally made lunch featuring recipes from Tuskegee scientist George Washington Carver…..and featuring local grown items.
From here the motorcoach travels to the Birmingham International Airport with a scheduled arrival around 4:00 pm for drop off at the airport. Please ensure return flights are scheduled after 6:00pm.
Meals included: B,L
Just some of our Speakers!
You won’t be just going on a trip to see historic locations. You’ll experience firsthand stories from the people who fought, who sweated and who lived through the struggle.
Dianne Harris joined the movement at an early age when, at 15, she left the Alabama Lutheran campus
Mrs. O’Neal has had a lifetime association with Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.
Dr. Bouyer developed the “Stony the Road We Trod” project and has served as a project director for Workshops sponsored by the NEH.
Ms. Battle grew up in Montgomery. Her family owned a funeral home and a taxi service during the 1960’s, and both helped to transport the black community during the bus boycott.
Peggy Wallace Kennedy
Peggy Wallace Kennedy is the daughter of the late George C. Wallace, the former governor of Alabama who became known as one of America’s most ardent segregationists.