For months I had been reading about the modern Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X or the Freedom Riders drew me into the African-American heritage. But then reading was not enough and I wanted to see the places I had learned about.
So I planned a self-guided trip to the US and called it my “Civil Rights Movement Tour”. I had chosen 8 cities to visit within 3 weeks. For the entire tour I used public transportation. It was such a blessing to spend a few weeks solely to learn about the fight for justice – at the places where it actually happened.
Eight cities of action
Here’s the route and why I wanted to visit these cities:
Malcolm X spent some of his teenage years in Boston. At the age of 21 he was incarcerated in a prison close to Boston. In prison Malcolm became a member of the Nation of Islam.
- New York
Malcolm X spent most of his activist life in New York. At Temple #7 in Harlem he was a minister of the Nation of Islam. On 21 February 1965 Malcolm X was assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom.
- Washington, D.C.
In August 1963 around 250,000 people joined for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. One of the speakers was Martin Luther King, Jr. His “I have a dream”-speech became iconic. Today also the King Memorial attracts visitors.
Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968. Today the site is the location of the National Civil Rights Museum.
Birmingham was one of the most repressive cities for African-Americans. In 1963 minister Fred Shuttlesworth and the black community asked Martin Luther King and his team to help with sit-ins, marching, boycotting and filling the jails. On 15 September 1963 Ku Klux Klan members bombed 16th Street Baptist Church and killed four girls.
Some say the modern Civil Rights Movement started in 1955 in Montgomery. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white man and was arrested. As a response the black community organised a year-long bus boycott. Two of the organisers were the young ministers Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy.
- New Orleans
In the 1700s, on Sundays, enslaved Africans and their descendants gathered in Congo Square. Their rhythms and melodies fused with other musical styles and formed an unheard musical genre deeply rooted in the African-American heritage: Jazz.
Atlanta is the birthplace of Martin Luther King. In the 1960s both Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy made Atlanta the base for organising the struggle for freedom. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) until today has its headquarters in Atlanta.
Some more travel information
13th September 2013 – 5th October 2013
- Public transportation:
intercity: MegaBus, Greyhound
local: tram, subway, busses; schedules and routes as Google Maps shows
hostels if available (Boston, NY, DC, Memphis); bed&breakfast (Birmingham); hotels (Montgomery, Atlanta)