The Official U.S. Civil Rights Trail Book Launches, Guiding Deeper Travel Experiences
New cultural travel book invites readers to share the journey of the civil rights movement
Churches, schools, homes and landmarks where Black Americans fought for fundamental freedoms are now the centerpiece of The Official U.S. Civil Rights Trail companion book, which was unveiled today in Atlanta at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park. Author and Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell joined Dr. Bernice King (CEO of The King Center and last born of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King), Judy Forte (National Park Service Superintendent), Mark Jaronski (Deputy Commissioner of Explore Georgia) and other civil rights leaders and state officials to celebrate the book launch at the Martin Luther King Jr. Birth Home alongside a 1958 restored Freedom Riders Bus. us.
Designed to bring to life the stories and history of the American civil rights movement, the 128-page hardcover book showcases iconic photographs captured by former Southern Living photographer Art Meripol, now published in print for the first time. The historic photos, paired with more than 200 images of the landmarks today, underscore the transformative experience of the trail and its endured relevance.
Using the new trail companion book, travelers can immerse themselves in history while visiting more than 120 landmarks across 14 Southern states that served as battlegrounds for famous marches, activist rallies and non-violent demonstrations. The book provides a way for visitors to share the journey of the civil rights movement together and tell the story of how “what happened here changed the world,” long after their visit is over.
“While the world is still healing from recent events in the fight for racial justice, cultural tourism is more relevant than ever,” said Author and Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell. “Travelers are visiting the trail in record numbers to connect with the stories of courage and gain a deeper understanding of the significance of the events that took place during the movement.”
Sentell, who has served as Alabama tourism director for nearly 20 years, began organizing the trail in partnership with 14 neighboring state tourism agencies in 2007, making the trail the first of its kind. The trail has garnered regional and international acclaim since its 2018 launch.
Beginning with the training of Black Tuskegee pilots in 1941 through President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the U.S. Civil Rights Trail follows a timeline of 36 major events, including U.S. Supreme Court decisions and Congressional actions, providing a framework for each decade of the movement. The trail extends from schools in Topeka, Kansas, known for the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education desegregation court decision, to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.
“The Civil Rights Trail is a one-of-a-kind cultural travel experience that everyone should visit to renew their perspective and gain a deeper appreciation for those who fought before us,” said Dr. Bernice King, CEO of The King Center and last born of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. “Each landmark across the trail serves as a reminder of where my father and many other brave activists fought tirelessly for our fundamental freedoms so that future generations of Black Americans could enjoy a better life.”
Travelers can draw inspiration from the legacy of Civil Rights leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Daisy Bates and John Lewis, connecting even deeper while touring their residences. They can follow the harrowing stories of 14-year-old Emmett Till, NAACP leader Medgar Evers, Birmingham Sunday School attendees, Selma voting-rights marchers and Nashville Freedom Riders while reading their stories and retracing their footsteps at sites along the trail.
The book also underscores the movement’s present-day relevance by featuring historic destinations such as the Smithsonian National African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington, D.C., alongside new memorial sites including the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.
The U.S. Civil Rights Trail book was published by Alabama Media Group in partnership with the Alabama Tourism Department. Proceeds will benefit a campaign to install LED lighting to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The book is available for purchase directly through Alabama Media Group and via Amazon, at the King Center and various retailers along the trail including the MLK National Historic Park bookstore in Atlanta. Travelers can also find copies of the book in select airports including Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport.
For more information about the book or to plan your journey on the trail, visit civilrightstrail.com.