Considered by many to be the birthplace of the Civil Rights Museum, Montgomery, Alabama offers a number of opportunities to learn about both the contributions and the struggles of African-Americans over the years. Many of these attractions are open year-round, but also offer special programs during the month of February.
Visit the Rosa Parks Museum. Located on Montgomery Street in the heart of the downtown area, the Museum offers a combination of exhibits that include documents and other important items related to the struggle for equal rights, including information on the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Museum also includes an auditorium where lectures on civil rights and history are often provided, with many of the presentations free to the public.
Go to the Civil Rights Memorial, located at 400 Washington Avenue. Adjacent to the headquarters of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Memorial was designed by Maya Lin, the artist who also worked on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC. Located in the open air, the Memorial details key events related to the fight for equality from the 1950’s onward, as well as the name of forty individuals who died during as a result of their support of the movement. The Memorial is open around the clock.
Attend presentations at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Located just down the street from the Civil Rights Memorial, this state department offers a wide range of lectures and exhibits related to black history in Alabama during the month of February. Tours of the exhibits are free and open to the public during the day and for special evening presentations.
Worship at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. Located near the State Capital building, this historic church was served by a young Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr. and featured prominently in the Civil Rights struggles. Of especial interest to history buffs is the mural located in the church that depicts the ministry of Dr. King from his days in Montgomery right up to his assassination in Memphis, TN in 1968. Tours including the church as well as the King Parsonage are available throughout the week as well as some weekends.
See a play at Alabama State University. Considered one of the oldest African-American institutions of higher learning in the United States, Alabama State offers productions related to black history at the Leila Barlow Theater, located in the Tullibody Fine Arts Center on campus. Other spots around Alabama State, including the media center, provide the opportunity to attend lectures and view artwork by African-American artists born in the state.
Travel along the route of the historic March from Selma to Montgomery. Today, the route is marked by historical markers at key stops along the way, including locations at the City of St. Jude on the west side of Montgomery, where many weary marchers were fed and given room to sleep before completing the journey to the Capital steps. During Black History Month, a number of spots along the route are home to special events that tell the story of the marchers, as well as remind attendees of the non-violent approach to equality that was central to the teachings of Dr. King.
Tips and Warnings
Ask about out of the way spots to see that are not on the official tours. There are a number of historic sites related to black history that are still in the process of development, or in some cases rescue from being torn down. Locals are more than happy to point those sites out to interested visitors, as well as make visitors aware of any special events that are being held at local universities or houses of worship during the month.