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Where to learn about civil rights in the Deep South

July 6, 2020 Visit USA No Comments Email Email

As I am sure you are aware, the ongoing fight for civil rights intensified again very recently, and in response there has been a strong push for individuals to learn about the history of black communities around the world, including what can be done to support them. Travel is a great way to not only further education on the subject, but also to support black owned businesses. And whilst we may not be able to travel internationally just yet, those with an interest in the civil rights movement should certainly have the city of Memphis on their future travel list.

The city of Memphis is home to some of the most significant sites in the Civil Rights Movement, which spanned the USA from the late 1940s to 1960s, but represented a struggle that had been taking place for centuries. Marking the place of one of the most shocking events in the movement, the Memphis-based National Civil Rights Museum was erected at the site of the former Lorraine Motel, the place of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in 1968. Throughout the year, the National Civil Rights Museum showcases 260 artefacts and interactive exhibits covering history across five centuries, honouring the struggles and triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement in the USA and encouraging the public to learn more about this period of time.

Memphis also houses the Mason Temple, which offers visitors the chance to take part in ‘A Tour of Possibilities’ that focuses on African American heritage in Memphis. This venue played a pinnacle role in the movement as this is the place Martin Luther King Jr. gave his final public speech. Also located in Memphis is WDIA, the first radio station in the USA to cater completely to African Americans – you can still see their neon sign and historical marker at its original location at 112 Union Ave.

Throughout the southern states of the US, there are a number of other significant locations, museums and memorials that pay homage to this period of time and provide a wealth of knowledge of the role this played in history, and that are worth adding to a road trip of Southern holiday. Three hours out of Memphis is the city of Jackson, and the location of the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Centre, which is housed inside the first public school for African Americans in Mississippi. Like the National Civil Rights Museum, visitors are able to to learn and understand the experience of African Americans in the South through art, photography and artefacts.

Journey out to Little Rock Arkansas, just two hours away from Memphis, to stand at the iconic Central High School National Historic Site. In 1957, nine African American students, later known as the Little Rock Nine, integrated into an all white high school in this southern city. First blocked from entering the establishment, the Little Rock Nine were escorted by the US Army and attended their first full day on classes on September 25.

With many locations to learn about the history of the Civil Rights Movement within Memphis, there are also a range of staple restaurants in the heart of the southern city, that further tell the stories of the past. Four Way Grill Restaurant was frequented by Martin Luther King Jr during the Movement, and the iconic Alcenia’s Restaurant has been providing soul food since 1997.

With so much to learn about the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South, the city of Memphis is sure worth adding to your future travel list, and is sure to leave you with a greater understanding of the struggle of this time.

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