The New York Times and the Smithsonian Institute will offer tours of Alabama’s civil rights landmarks

Street View Of 16Th Street Baptist Church
The 16th Street Baptist Church will be a stop on The New York Times and Smithsonian Institute civil rights tours. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

Almost four years ago to this day, former President Obama established the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. That’s paying off now—we’ve got The New York Times and the Smithsonian Institute planning 2021 tours of Alabama’s civil rights landmarks, including our own monuments.

Tracing Birmingham’s history in the Civil Rights Movement

16Th Street Baptist Church Will Be Featured In The New York Times Civil Rights Tours Of Alabama
16th Street Baptist Church and the parsonage. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

I grew up in Birmingham and still remember visiting civil rights landmarks such as the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute for the first time. It was impactful to see Birmingham’s role as the “center of the civil rights movement”, and I can only imagine how new visitors will feel seeing these monuments and hearing stories from people who lived through the movement.

The tours will trace the steps of the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma and Tuskegee. Planned stops in Birmingham include the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Historic Bethel Baptist Church.

With the Civil Rights National Monument designation, the area has received more than attention; renovations and new exhibits are coming to 16th Street Baptist Church thanks to a number of grants. People will also be encouraged to visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a Smithsonian Affiliate.

We can imagine that the tour will also bring new attention to the A. G. Gaston Motel, the motel where civil rights leaders gathered to discuss strategies. The motel’s renovations are expected to be completed by December 2021.

Planned stops on the tours include Civil Rights landmarks throughout Alabama

Statue Of Three Pastors At Kelly Ingram Park In Birmingham, Alabama
Three pastors monument at Kelly Ingram Park in the Birmingham Civil Rights District. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Outside of Birmingham, the tours will feature the site of the historic “Bloody Sunday” voting rights march, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma. Other planned stops on the itinerary include the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts to view the African American collections, the Freedom Rides Museum and the Tuskegee Airmen Historic Site.

The Alabama African-American Civil Rights Heritage Sites Consortium assisted the Smithsonian with planning their itinerary. Most stops on the Smithsonian tour are a part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.

The tours will give witness to Birmingham’s history as the epicenter of the Civil Rights movement

Four Little Girls Statue At The Entrance Of Kelly Ingram Park - New York Times Civil Rights Tour
Four Little Girls statue at the entrance of Kelly Ingram Park in front of 16th Street Baptist Church. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Along with stops at important landmarks, the tours will include conversations with local experts such as the staff of the Equal Justice Initiative and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

On the Smithsonian tour in Selma, hear from foot soldiers who participated in the 1965 Voting Rights Campaign. The Times’ trip will include a conversation with Peggy Wallace Kennedy, daughter of former Governor George Wallace, who has denounced her father’s policies.

These tours are big news for Birmingham. While visitors learn about the city’s part in the civil rights movement, they’ll also see Birmingham’s thriving culture from Birmingham’s Historic Fourth Avenue Business District to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s Juneteenth celebration.

Here’s everything you need to know about the planned tours:

  • Length: Each tour is scheduled to last six days with itineraries full of planned stops at civil rights landmarks.
  • Cost: The cost for the Smithsonian tour starts at $4,795 and the Times’ tour starts at $5,195. The cost includes hotel accommodations, most meals and air transfers.
  • When: The tours are planned to begin as early as March with more tours in the fall.
  • The New York Times Civil Rights Tour | Smithsonian Civil Rights Tour

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Cecilia Wood
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