Journey Along the Civil Rights Trail Itinerary
If you’ve always wanted to explore America and the southern states, Memphis is a great place to start your trip! You can’t help falling in love with the city, known for its musical history of rock ‘n’ roll, soul and the blues. Legendary performers like Albert King, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, B.B. King who influenced all graced these streets, and you’ll be instantly swept up in its vibe. Arriving early? Don’t miss the chance to explore, just be back in time for our Welcome Reception. It’s here you’ll meet your on-road Team, fellow travelers and future friends, all eager for the adventure that awaits and the characters you’ll meet on this rich history tour.
Today is all about exploring the city’s treasures through a local’s lens on our African American History and Culture Tour. With our Local Specialist, you’ll Dive into Culture, exploring the struggles and triumphs, music and movements, legends and heroes and their tireless fight for human rights both past and present. We’ll get our bearings heading past the Memphis Pyramid, the historic Peabody Hotel and Beale Street before arriving at the Lorraine Motel, the place where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was tragically assassinated on April 4, 1968. Today it’s home to the National Civil Rights Museum. Take your time exploring this interactive space and its eye-opening exhibits that showcase five centuries of history, leaving you with a better understanding of the mark it’s left on the world today. The Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum housed in an antebellum home is up next. A shocking and moving experience, you’ll gain incredible insight into the slave trade, learn about the network of secret routes and safe houses and those who fought to free those enslaved. You can even descend into the very tunnels where people risked their lives to chase freedom. Your Memphis sightseeing continues at The Historic Mason Temple where, the day before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”. Following this you’ll view the work of mid-century photographer Dr. Ernest C. Withers who captured everything from music legends and sports stars to political events. see firsthand how this creative talent captured a significant time in America, documenting African American history in the segregated South, including powerful images of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson and Aretha Franklin, to name a few. Today ends with an exclusive, private experience at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, providing after-hours access to learn about the rich cultural legacy of soul and its roots in gospel. Interactive, sensory and fun, you’ll hear the stories and, of course, music as you make your way around the museum. You’ll feel good knowing your visit helps to MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® by supporting the Soulsville Foundation, educating and inspiring future artists to reach their dreams.
Memphis to Jackson via the Mississippi Delta
With the sound of soul still firmly in your memory, depart Memphis this morning and travel through the Mississippi Delta, hitting stops along the Mississippi Blues Trail and the Mississippi Freedom Trail. Heading down Highway 61 for the next leg of our Civil Rights Tour, we’ll Dive Into Culture in Clarksdale starting at the Delta Blues Museum, leaving you inspired by the musicians that kicked off the blues genre and the passionate locals keeping it alive today. Further south, we’ll make a stop in Greenwood, a hub for Civil Rights activity in the 1950s and 1960s. You’ll visit Bryant’s Grocery & Meat Market in Money to learn about the tragic events that unfolded and lead up to the unjust murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, an event widely credited as the catalyst for the Movement. Arriving in Jackson, the stories of Emmett Till and so many others are illustrated through the eight interactive galleries of the incredible Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. Through personal stories and interactive displays, it provides a sobering look into the systematic oppression of Black Mississippians and their fight for equality between 1945 and 1970. Now full of newfound knowledge and stories, grab a bite or relax at the hotel before another full day of adventures tomorrow.
Jackson to Birmingham
All the sightseeing highlights and history of Jackson come to life with two your choice experiences that will make this one to remember. You could visit the home and assassination site of Medgar Evers, a prominent Civil Rights organizer and the first field secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). This lovingly restored museum is a time warp of a family home in the 1960s where you’ll gain an understanding of his tireless work towards equality. Also on offer is the chance to pay a visit to the COFO Civil Rights Education Center, formerly the headquarters of the Movement in Mississippi. Opened by Jackson State University in 2011, you’ll come away appreciating the center’s role in learning from the past while influencing the next generation of leaders. Next, you’ll make your way to Birmingham, AL. If you’ve wanted to learn about the power and emotion of American gospel music, this evening’s Dive Into Culture experience is your perfect introduction. Under the guidance of Alabama’s talented Carlton Reese Choir, you’ll learn about the importance of song and music to the African American communities in the South. You’ll love speaking with them to hear the choir’s history, the origins of Gospel, the role of ‘freedom songs’ and the connection with slavery and how the choir supported the movement and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his visits to the state. End the day with a Southern dinner and concert featuring the music of greats like Sun Ra and Erskine Hawkins, sure to be a memory that will live on after this leg of your Civil Rights Trail journey ends.
With a full day of sightseeing in Birmingham ahead, your Local Specialist will help paint a vivid picture of the city Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once described as “probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States”. Starting at the top of Red Mountain you’ll Dive into Culture, as our expert Local Specialist guide shares their passion for the city’s key sights. Start by taking in the views from above at Vulcan’s torch, the 56-foot (17m) tall cast-iron statue of the Roman god, built to reflect the city’s roots in the iron and steel industry. There’s time to explore Vulcan Park and Museum before heading back into the city to see the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the site of a bombing that tragically killed four young girls preparing for Sunday school in 1963. After lunch, head on a driving tour and see Birmingham jail, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was held and wrote his renowned “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, followed by Dynamite Hill, Linn Park, Freedom Riders attack site, and the Black Business District. The rest of the day is free for you to explore on your own. Hungry for some Southern eats? Your Travel Director can recommend their favorite spots for Southern cooking, depending on what you’re craving.
Birmingham to Selma to Montgomery
We may only be six days into our Civil Rights journey through the American South, but there’s still so much more to see. As we take to the road this morning, you’ll no doubt reflect on the significance of our next destination, Selma. The Selma to Montgomery March marked a defining point in the Voting Rights Movement and you’ll start today’s journey with an incredible insight into the Civil Rights Movement with a local activist and speaker. This experience is a once-in-a-lifetime interaction, hearing the realities and struggles of growing up as an African American in the segregated South. Our next stop is the Tabernacle Baptist Church, where the first mass meeting of the Voting Rights Movement was held in 1963 and our guide, a passionate storyteller, will lead the way explaining the role of the church, its members and how they invited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Selma in 1964. Nothing can quite prepare you for the feeling of walking in the footsteps of the tireless heroes of the Civil Rights Movement as you cross Edmund Pettus Bridge. A monumental sight recognized as a National Historic Landmark, it’s here that thousands of peaceful protestors marched for voting rights before the tragic “Bloody Sunday” beatings of March 7, 1972. These televised attacks changed the course of history. End the day paying respects at the Lowndes Interpretive Center, dedicated to those who peacefully marched the Selma-Montgomery route, before arriving at our home for the next two nights, Montgomery.
Waking up in Alabama’s capital city, you’ll appreciate taking the time to get to know its history while experiencing its modern-day buzz. Best known as the center of the movement, we’ll visit some of the city’s most influential museums. We start the day’s adventures at the Legacy Museum learning about the horrific story of tens of thousands of African Americans trafficked during the 19th century. Next up is Court Square before reaching the Rosa Parks Museum, a memorial to Montgomery NAACP chapter leader, heroic trailblazer and symbol of the movement, who refused to vacate her seat on the bus in 1955. Before the day draws to a close, we make our final stop at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Using sculpture, art and design the memorial tells stories of the past in such an important city. Later you could choose to stretch your legs with a stroll along the banks of the Alabama River and reflect on another incredible day.
Montgomery to Tuskegee to Atlanta
It’s hard to believe it’s our last full day on our history and culture tour. A change in scenery awaits as we travel to Tuskegee, AL, to Connect With Locals at the home of Sandy Taylor. Today is all about a true warm Southern welcome at this Be My Guest brunch of her favourite dishes using locally grown produce and recipes from agricultural scientist George Washington Carver. You’ll appreciate the hard work and passion as you learn how Sandy and her husband Harvey lovingly restored their mansion built in 1855 and hear stories about what it means to be African American owners of a historic property that was once an antebellum estate. Reaching our last destination, your time here begins with Atlanta sightseeing, starting with a moving walk along the International Civil Rights Walks of Fame, featuring national icons including Rosa Parks, Reverend Jesse Jackson and President Jimmy Carter. It’s our last night together, so no doubt there will be a few tears as we share a hearty farewell dinner, plenty of stories and toast the last eight incredible days.
As your south USA tour comes to a memorable end, the travel highlight of this trip will no doubt be one final tribute to the Civil Rights hero himself, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Today we will learn even more about his story starting at his birthplace, see where he played as a child and hear his voice in the church where he shaped both hearts and minds. Our last stop of the trip is the National Historical Park to pay our respects at the place he was laid to rest. A true force for social change, you’ll love ending the trip learning even more about his work fighting for change in education, justice and perseverance for freedom before his assassination in 1968. Before you head home, take a moment to reflect over the past nine days in the American South: the memories, connections, the stories you’ve heard, significance of the places, and your deeper understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and its impact on today. We will return to the Atlanta hotel by Noon, departing flights should be reserved no earlier than 3pm.