6 Important Sites of the Civil Rights Movement You Must Visit

By Audrey W. | Arcadia Staff
In the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans fought to gain equal rights in the United States. While the Civil War had resulted in slavery being abolished, African Americans still faced daily discrimination throughout the United States. The Civil Rights movement looked to eliminate these inequalities. This transformative time in American history has left us with several landmarks where pivotal events took place, preserved to honor their memory. These are six major sites of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Civil Rights Memorial.Civil Rights Memorial
Montgomery, Alabama

On a black circular disk in this memorial are the names of 41 people who were killed as a result of their roles in the Civil Rights Movement. The memorial was created by Maya Lin, the same designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. She hoped that the layout of the memorial would create a soothing or healing effect for its visitors. On the wall behind the disk is a quote from MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. 

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
Washington D.C.

Situated around the Washington D.C. Tidal Basin is a massive granite statue of King, carved by sculptor Lei Yixin. At the center of the memorial is the Stone of Hope, a design inspired by a line from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” The memorial opened to the public in August of 2011 after nearly two decades of fundraising and planning. Today, the memorial is one of the most popular in Washington D.C.

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
Little Rock, Arkansas

In 1957, nine African American students who became known as the Little Rock Nine entered the halls of Little Rock Central High School after the historic ruling of Brown vs. Board of Education. On their first day, they faced an angry mob of over 1,000 white residents. It was the first time the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education was enforced, and the entire nation was watching. Today, the site has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
Birmingham, Alabama

On a Sunday morning in 1963, a bomb went off at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The blast killed four young African American girls, injured 22 other people, and shook the entire nation. The bombing marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1965, a stunning stained-glass Welsh Window was installed in the church, showing a black Jesus with outstretched arms as a way to speak to the importance of the Civil Rights Movement. Statues of the four girls were erected in 2013 in Kelly Ingram Park to honor their memories. 

National Voting Rights Museum
Selma, Alabama

Opened in 1993, Selma’s National Voting Rights Museum chronicles and honors the hard-fought battle for African Americans to win the right to vote in the United States. It includes events like the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march, and the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It’s located near the Edmond Pettus Bridge, where marchers who planned to walk to Montgomery crossed and were met brutally by state troopers. Just a few months after the successful completion of the march, the Voting Rights Act was passed. 

National Museum of African American History and Culture
Washington D.C.

Located on the National Mall in Washington D.C. is the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum opened in 2016 after planning that lasted over a decade. Visitors start three floors below ground with an exhibition on how slavery began in America. As they climb back to ground level, they move through centuries of African American history in the United States, beginning with slavery, and concluding with modern day achievements and activism. The museum chronicles a long history of both pain and bravery, and is a must-see on a visit to Washington D.C.
Today we remember the people and events that helped shape the Civil Rights Movement. Without their brave efforts, today’s accomplishments might never have come to fruition. The movement left its mark on history through important landmarks scattered throughout the United States. We can visit these sites and honor the stories of those whose lives were impacted by the movement. 
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