It’s easy to visit most historic sites on your own, but there are reasons to take a guided civil rights tour of the South. On a practical level, it lets someone else worry about the driving and choose the restaurants, and more importantly, the trips are often guided by extraordinary experts to help put the history and sites into perspective.
It’s quite easy to customize an educational civil rights tour of the South for a family, class, community organization or church. Throughout the year, many groups and colleges and alumni associations also offer trips to significant sites, usually on multi-day bus tours. Most are open to everyone.
Even in a time when traveling is difficult, you can still take a civil rights tour.
The tour company Road Scholar offers a five-day deep dive into the civil rights movement, all online. The experience includes field trips and discussions with experts and former civil rights activists, lasting two to three hours each day.
There will plenty of time for questions, and sessions presented by museum directors, researchers and historians.
Topics include the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, the Freedom Rides, and discussions of how the Black Lives Matter movement builds on the protests of the past.
The experience costs $499 and is offered Nov. 16-20, 2020, and Jan. 25-29, 2021.
- One of the best is Freedom Lifted, a Chicago company run by a woman with roots in the South.
- Sojourn to the Past, a California-based non-profit, has been giving tours since 1999 and has developed deep connections in the Deep South. The tours hit all the major civil rights sites from Georgia to Arkansas, and adds in some surprises too. While most programs are designed for students, it does offer trips that can include families.
Book a specialty civil rights tour of the South
- Road Scholar offers an eight-day Heart of the Civil Rights Movement tour visiting Atlanta, Montgomery and Birmingham.
- Grand Circle Travel offers an extensive 11-day “Let Freedom Ring!” tour from Jackson, Mississippi to Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery, before ending in Mobile, Alabama. For first-time travelers, earn a $100 discount by mentioning name Lawrence B and Customer Number 2966437
- The Nation magazine plans to offer an extensive week long trip in October 2020 and February 2021, through Jackson, Mississippi; Memphis; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. It’s led by Andre Robert Lee, a teacher and filmmaker. Watch an excerpt of a trip below:
- The Alabama Civil Rights Tourism Association offers in-depth journeys through the state that was at the heart of the movement, with visits to Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma,
- The University of Pennsylvania Alumni Association has a four-day tour focused on Alabama in October 2000, led by professor Herman Beavers.
- The University of Rochester Alumni Association has a week long trip traveling from Memphis to Montgomery in March 2021. It’s led by senior associate dean John Barker.
- Distant Horizons, a sponsor of alumni association tours, has a special trip in spring 2021, visiting Jackson, Little Rock, Memphis and Montgomery. It’s also led by teacher and filmmaker Andre Robert Lee.
- The Montgomery County, Maryland Office of Civil Rights offers an annual Educational Freedom Experience trip leaving from the Washington, D.C. area, and visiting Greensboro, North Carolina; Atlanta; Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham, Ala.; Jackson and Money, Mississippi; and Memphis, Tenn., before motoring back to Maryland.
- Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, PA, offers an annual Returning to the Roots of Civil Rights Tour, which usually runs in June.
School trip planners
- Educational Travel Adventures and Explorica by WorldStrides have set tours for school groups, while Hemisphere Educational Travel, Concept Tours, and Brights Park Travel can organize trips for your group.
- UK-based Rayburn Tours will customize tours for British groups.
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