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The Alabama Civil Rights Trail iPhone App will guide your way

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Learn History in a Flash

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Oslo: Where King became a Laureate

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An exhibit at the Nobel Peace Center draws on once secret documents to explain how King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Credit: Johannes Granseth/Nobel Peace Center

The film Selma opens with Martin Luther King Jr. donning a tuxedo and tails. The year is 1964 and he's in Oslo, Norway, to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. The enormous honor brought international affirmation to the decadelong battle King had been waging against segregation.

Back home, it also reminded U.S. leaders and the public that the world was paying attention to the country's struggle with racial violence and injustice, including the deadly bombing of Birmingham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church the previous year. It gave King and the movement heightened stature as it pressed forward.

Recently, the Prize has again been in the news as King family members have bickered over the ownership of the medal awarded in Oslo.

At the same time, the Nobel Peace Center in the Norwegian capital is revisiting the historic honor in a special exhibit, honoring the 50th anniversary of the award presentation. The display, partially underwritten by the U.S. Embassy in Norway, reveals previously confidential documents about the process that led to King's honor. Visitors can see papers about the selection, a video of his acceptance speech and a wide-ranging Norwegian television interview he gave when he visited Oslo for the ceremony.

A similar exhibit is on temporary display in Atlanta at the King Historic Site.

Learn more here.


Selma:You've seen the film, now visit the set

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Thanks to the power of Oprah and Hollywood, Selma, Ala., and its inspiring role in the Civil Rights Movement is back on the nation's mind, getting the attention it deserves on the 50th anniversary of the famed Bloody Sunday and the march to Montgomery.

While critics have noted historical inaccuracies in the Oscar-nominated film, Selma, the overall story is accurate. The violence in Selma, indeed shocked the nation, and led Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act.

For any Civil Rights traveler, Selma is a must-stop to understanding the movement and Martin Luther King, Jr. Visitors can find their way to many of the places that played such a central role in the protest. However, the film simplified history, combining stories and placing them all in Selma for dramatic purposes.

For example, Jimmie Lee Jackson, the young man shot in a restaurant, was actually killed 30 miles away in Marion, Alabama. Indeed it was his murder six weeks before the march that galvanized the protest.

It's also worth noting that this was very familiar territory to King and his wife. Coretta Scott grew up near Marion, where the two were wed.

Take a tour here.

Red Tails: Tuskegee - Where Heroes First Flew

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The movie Red Tails chronicles the wartime glory of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

The high-flying exploits of the soldiers in the film Red Tails seems like the stuff of fiction. But what makes this tale of African-American fighter pilots battling the Nazis abroad and prejudice at home is that it's true. Or as true as a Hollywood movie can be.

The Tuskegee Airmen indeed were a heroic cadre of World War II pilots that were never supposed to get off the ground. And even if they found glory over the skies of Europe, perhaps the most significant part of their story unfolded in Alabama.

Buckle up and learn more here.

Albany, Georgia

The city where King failed - and freedom sang

Most civil rights memorials celebrate victories.

Albany, Ga., is different.

Unlike Montgomery or Greensboro, there was no triumph here. This is the city where Martin Luther King Jr. lost. He couldn't even manage to stay in jail. But his failure in 1961 to integrate this southwest Georgia city played a crucial role in the progress of the Civil Rights Movement. King learned from his mistakes and honed his protest strategies.

It's also the city where the Civil Rights struggle literally found its voice. This is where a group of female performers, The Freedom Singers. was formed. One of the original members leads a stirring monthly concert of protest songs that will literally have you on your feet vowing that "We Shall Overcome." (Watch a video clip below).

Sing along and learn more here.

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The Freedom Singers perform free monthly concert at the old Mount Zion Baptist Church.


The Help: Visit sites from the movie - and history

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Skeeter (Emma Stone) teams up with Minny (Octavia Spencer) and Aibileen (Viola Davis).

The best-selling novel and film, The Help, introduces viewers to a slice of Mississippi life unknown to most. As the Civil Rights Era began to boil over, black maids were still working inside the homes of whites, raising their children - and learning their secrets

Filming took place in Mississippi, and the main host cities - Greenwood and Jackson - are eager to guide visitors to locations from the movie and novel. But the areas were also home to some of the most violent moments of the civil rights era, and they can be visited too.

Explore both worlds here.

Washington, D.C.

How to get tickets for MLK Memorial dedication

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The memorial covers a four-acre site and will include a wall with King quotations.

Maybe you weren't there for the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. You can make up for it this August by attending the dedication of the King memorial in Washington.

The Aug. 28 event takes place on the 48th anniversary of Dr. King's famous address. It will include a concert and speeches. The memorial will immediately become a must-see see Washington site, and decades later you'll be able to say "I was there the day it opened." A special website has details on the dedication ceremony.

The memorial will be located in West Potomac Park in line with the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. For more information, visit the MLK memorial website..

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door

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Gov. George Wallace attempted to defy the federal desegregation orders a hot June day.

When Alabama Gov. George Wallace positioned himself defiantly at the entrance to a University of Alabama gymnasium, he created a moment and phrase that still echoes half a century later.

Read more about the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door here.

Oxford, Mississippi

The Battle of Ole Miss

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James Meredith will forever march into history on the Ole Miss campus.

These days Oxford, Miss., is best known as genteel southern college town, the former home to writers John Grisham and William Faulkner. It evokes the scent of magnolias, and the roar of the crowd at a University of Mississippi football game. But in 1962, it was quite a different atmosphere. And the roars were from mobs of protesters, furious that an African-American student was planning to enroll. Before it was over, federal troops were called in, hundreds were injured, and two had died. All so James Meredith could go to school.

Read more about the Battle of Oxford here.

Farmville, Virginia

A Forgotten Teenage Civil Rights Hero

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More than a half-century after leading a student protest, Barbara Johns was included in Virginia's Civil Rights Memorial in Richmond, the former captial of the Confederacy.

We all know the civil rights giants. Martin, Rosa and Malcolm don't even require a last name.

But here's one you've probably never heard of: Barbara Johns.

The 15 year-old Virginia high school student launched a protest that ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court. For five years, the public schools in Prince Edward County, Va., simply shut down because they refused to mix black and white students. The remarkable story -- largely unknown today even in Virginia -- is told at a modest but growing museum in Farmville, Va., about 65 miles southwest of Richmond.

Read more about the amazing struggle here.

Greensboro, N.C.

A Sit-In that Tore Down Segregation

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A video projected behind the actual lunchcounter shows how the Woolworth's protest began.

Four college dorm-mates just wanted to sit down and order a cup of coffee and a glazed doughnut. By the time they were finally served months later, they had introduced the phrase "sit-in" to the dictionary and helped demolish Jim Crow laws across the South.

Read more about the nation's newest civil rights museum here.

Selma's Violent March into History

Only 54 miles separate Selma and Montgomery, but that span helped changed history. The march to Montgomery is now preserved as a National Historic Trail, complete with markers and memorials. Read more here.

Top six cities for Dr. Martin Luther King history

No other name is so closely linked to the Civil Rights movement. A Civil Rights traveler can visit the most important Civil Rights sites just by touring the cities where Dr. King lived and made history.


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Dr. King's story begins and ends in Atlanta. Visit the National Park Service's King site, his home pulpit, and his gravesite. Read more here.

Montgomery, Alabama

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The Alabama capital was where Dr. King first became a pastor, and a historic figure. Visit his home, learn about his role in the bus boycott, and honor him and other victims of the civil rights struggle at a moving memorial. Read more here.

Washington, D.C.

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Dr. King made international headlines during the March on Washington. Visit the site of his stirring address at the Lincoln Memorial. Read more here.

Birmingham, Alabama

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See the cell where the Dr. King wrote his famous Letter from Birmingham jail. Confront police dogs captured in mid-attack, visit the church where four girls were murdered in Sunday school. Read more here.

Selma, Alabama

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Walk across the Edmund Pettus bridge, site of the last significant confrontation of the Civil Rights era. Visit a museum and read recollections of participants. Take a city tour and see where Dr. King galvanized marchers. Read more here.

Memphis, Tennessee

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As Dr. King had predicted, he never lived to see the country's racial wounds healed. Visit the motel room where he was gunned down. Read more here.