As the end of Black History Month draws near, I would like to highlight a few landmarks for you to check out. Over the years I have heard many people wonder why there was a need for a Black History Month. Black History is American History, period. However, during most American history classes students are taught at a high level with people of color rarely mentioned. If people of color are discussed it is usually within another narrative, like slavery and the Civil War. Or, combining Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks as the only important people to know in the lesson about the Civil Rights Movement. That was the extent of my Black History education.
As an adult, I have made it my mission to educate myself on the black experience in America. Honestly, I thought I had done a decent job until I began taking road trips to visit some of the places that I had read about. One thing that I found out quickly was I that had no idea of how much I didn’t know.
If you are a fan of history and up for a road trip in the South, please check out some of the landmarks I have visited over the last couple of years. They are important in Black History which means they are important in American History.
1) The home where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born and lived for twelve years of his childhood has been well preserved. Tours are conducted by National Park Service rangers only and photos inside of the home are not allowed. However, if you get the opportunity to see it you will not be disappointed. The tour is free and is open daily.
2) Ebenezer Baptist Church was the King family church and visitors are welcome to take a self-guided tour. This church is where Dr. King was baptized, ordained, preached his first sermon and also where his funeral service was held. The clock in the sanctuary of the church still reflects 10:30am, which was the time Dr.King’s funeral was held.
Go here for more information about Dr. King’s home and Ebenezer Baptist Church.
3) Sixteenth Street Baptist Church most famous for where four young girls were killed by a bombing at their church before Sunday school. For more information go here or watch Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary titled, “4 Little Girls”.
4) Kelly Ingram Park is where young people were sprayed with water hoses and attacked with dogs in 1963. The level of violence against mostly children caused a huge public outcry and changed the course of the Civil Rights movement.
5) This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death. He was assassinated on the balcony of the Loraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The hotel has become a National Civil Rights Museum and is a treasure trove of information for anyone looking to learn more about Black History. Go here for more information.
6) Stax Museum of American Soul Music is the only museum of its kind that is dedicated to telling the story of American Soul music. Stax Records began in 1960, the same year that Motown Records was incorporated. Everyone who considers themselves a music fan knows the history of Motown and its legendary status in the music world. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Stax Records. Go here for more information.
7) Take a tour of the home Dexter Parsonage Museum, it is where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived in from 1954 to 1960. Visitors can still see the mark left from the bomb thrown at the house while his family was inside as retaliation for leading the Montgomery bus boycotts. Go here for more information.
8) On March 7, 1965, civil rights marchers on the way to Montgomery from Selma made it as far as The Edmund Petus Bridge where they were attacked in what is now knows as “Bloody Sunday”. Go here for more information.
Interested in learning more about important landmarks in Black History? If you are like me and like to see places in person go check out the Civil Rights Trail. In January, a group of fourteen Southern states worked together to launch the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. They have identified the most important sites that were pivotal in the movement, including over 130 landmarks. To learn more about the trail go to the official website here.