On our summer road trip to New Orleans, we made a point to have lunch in Montgomery so we could view some of the most important places in Civil Rights history. It’s a stop that should be on your list to make when traveling through Alabama.
Montgomery is the capital of Alabama and saw many important events in Civil Rights history. This is where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, and where the 1956 Montgomery bus boycott was the first large-scale U.S. demonstration against segregation.
These important events are celebrated by museums and preservation projects throughout the city, along with a new museum/memorial by the Equal Justice Initiative that honors those lost in the struggle. It’s a memorable place to visit.
Montgomery is a small town and is easy to navigate in a few hours. We were passing through so we only had time for 2 historical sites and lunch but you could easily see the rest in an additional 2-3 hours.
Some of the most important historical sites in Montgomery are churches, including the Dexter King Memorial Baptist Church and Parsonage where Dr. King lived and preached from 1954-1960. In-person tours are still canceled due to COVID but keep checking the website here for more details, and you can take a virtual tour here.
Another important historical site is the Alabama State Capitol, which was the destination in the Selma to Montgomery march. This is the site of Dr. King’s “How Long, Not Long” speech.
Several museums have opened in Montgomery to celebrate its importance in Civil Rights history. The Freedom Rides Museum is housed in the actual restored Greyhound bus station used by the freedom riders in 1961. The Rosa Parks Museum is located at the site of her famous arrest and has a 1955 bus on display. There’s also a Rosa Parks statue in downtown Montgomery.
Since we only had time for one stop, we chose to make it the Equal Justice Initiative Museum and Memorial. Note the museum and the memorial are not at the same location. The Legacy Museum is in the downtown area along the Alabama River and is housed in a building that served as a slave auction site.
Due to the hard nature of the history told in this museum, I recommend it for kids ages 12 and up. It tells the legacy of slavery from its appearance in the New World to its far-reaching ramifications throughout the centuries. There is a timeline when you enter that you follow along. There are several interactive exhibits but no photos are allowed. Tickets are $5 and must be reserved in advance here (includes admission to the memorial).
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is a short five minute drive from the museum. This is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of the enslaved and those who were terrorized by lynching.
It’s a solemn memorial so make sure to make your children aware of this ahead of your visit. There are moving statues to see and contemplative memorials.
The centerpoint is the memorial containing 800 steel monuments, one for each county in the US where a documented racial lynching took place.
Tickets are $5 and must be reserved in advance here (includes admission to the museum).
Another memorial in the city is the Civil Rights Memorial Center at the Southern Poverty Law Center. This is located in an open plaza and is accessible without tickets.
Montgomery, Alabama is an important stop in any road trip through Alabama to learn about Civil Rights history. Make sure to put it on your must-see list!
- Cost: depends on site (Legacy Museum/Memorial is $5)
- Recommended: ages 6 and up (12 and up for The Legacy Museum)
- Tour time: Most sites can be seen in 3-4 hours
- Gifts shops at most museums
- Transportation: Sites are best accessed via automobile. Street parking is plentiful at most locations.
- Dining options: We had an amazing lunch at Dreamland BBQ, just two blocks from The Legacy Museum. The museum also has its own restaurant, Pannie-George’s Kitchen. There are lots of restaurants located around The Alley near the museum
- Hotel options: There are several hotels in downtown Montgomery (the Renaissance looked nice) – check out the options at the tourism site. We were just passing through and stayed about 1.5 hours away at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort & Spa at Grand National. It was a last-minute choice and ended up being one of our children’s favorite stops! The pool alone is worth a night’s stay!
- Nearby attractions include: Museum of Alabama, Riverfront Park (including steamboat rides), Old Alabama Town, and the Alabama Governor’s Mansion
Books to read:
Be sure to check out my favorite recommendations for Black history books for kids and teens at my Bookshop.org shop here (this is an affiliate link).