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Civil Rights Tourism: Montgomery

Credit Stan Ingold
Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church

  2013 marks the fiftieth anniversary of a number of key moments in the fight for civil rights. Alabama Public Radio’s Stan Ingold recently began a trek to several spots around the state that are linked to the civil rights struggle. Visitors from around the world are coming to these sites as tourists. Stan recently took us to Selma and this time we look at Montgomery where to voting rights march took place.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church stands in the shadow of the capitol building in Montgomery. It was declared a national historic landmark in 1974 and was home to many civil rights leaders including Reverend Vernon Johns and Martin Luther King Junior.

The basement of the church was where the first meetings were held to set up the now famous Montgomery Bus Boycott. It is now home to a mural depicting many of the key figures and events of the civil rights movement. Betina Vernon is a tour guide at the church, she says there is a little known fact that help strengthen Martin Luther King Junior’s tie to the church…

“This is the only church that Dr. King was eversenior pastor of, remember when he was in Atlanta, that was his father’s church," recalls Vernon. "This was his first church and after he left, he never led another church.”

Not far from Dexter Baptist Church is the parsonage. This was the home provided for the minister of the church. This has been converted into an interpretive center and a museum. Here groups are able to see the home Dr. King lived in while beginning his role in the civil rights movement, it has been restored to the time when the Kings lived there. They can also see where a bomb exploded on the front porch and damaged the home.

We mentioned the bus boycott earlier, and it came about after the arrest of Rosa Parks who famously refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. A museum dedicated to her now sits on the street corner where she was arrested.

Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum shows timelines of different events in the Civil Rights Movement and has on file many primary records from the struggle such as police reports, arrest records and financial statements from the various organizations in Montgomery at the time. Georgette Norman is the director of the museum. She explains that the museum lets visitors make up their own minds about what they see…

“We don’t try to tell people what to think or how to think," says Norman. "We present things as they were so you actually witness the arrest of Rosa Parks on the bus as people did on the day they were present and then you can decide what was really going on.”

Selma and Montgomery have their landmarks to the Civil Rights Movement, and so does the city of Birmingham. That will be our final stop on Alabama’s Civil Rights Trail.

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