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. Generally you’ll need a minimum of 15 to book a custom tour. 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.
Book a specialty civil rights tour of the South
The following group tours are open to everyone, and include newly announced 2021 tours.
- Trafalgar Tours offers a new comprehensive nine-day Journey Along the Civil Rights Trail tour taking travelers from Memphis to Atlanta. It covers most the important spots we recommend on a Deep South tour, including Emmet Till sites on the Mississippi Civil Rights Trail. Tours begin in September 18, 2021, and start at $2,675.
- The New York Times offers a six-day “Civil Rights Trail in Alabama” tour visiting Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma and Tuskegee. The trip runs $5,195, and runs Oct. 18-23, 2021. It includes a visit with Peggy Wallace Kennedy, daughter of segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace.
- The Smithsonian Institution covers much of the same territory in its six-day “Cradle of the Movement: Civil Rights in Alabama” tour. It starts at $4,795, and is scheduled to run May 17 – 22, 2021, and Oct 11 – 16, 2021.
- Road Scholar offers an eight-day Heart of the Civil Rights Movement tour visiting Atlanta, Montgomery and Birmingham, beginning in September, 2021, starting at $2.099.
- 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. Tour dates are available beginning in September, 2021, and start at $3,275. For first-time travelers, earn a $100 discount by mentioning name Lawrence B and Customer Number 2966437
- The Alabama Civil Rights Tourism Association offers six-day journeys through the state that was at the heart of the movement, with visits to Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma. Trips are scheduled throughout 2021. Guest guides include Wanda Battles, whose family helped transport riders during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Peggy Wallace Kennedy, daughter of segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace. Trips start at $2,395.
- The Nation magazine plans to offer an extensive week long trip Sept. 26 – Oct. 3, 2021, through Jackson, Mississippi; Memphis; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. The trip starts at $4,340 and is led by Andre Robert Lee, a teacher and filmmaker. Watch an excerpt of a trip below:
- The University of Pennsylvania Alumni Association has a four-day tour focused on Alabama in October 2021, led by professor Herman Beavers. It runs Oct. 14-17, 2021, and starts at $1,465.
- The University of Rochester Alumni Association has a week long trip traveling from Memphis to Montgomery from March 7-14, 2021, and starts at $3.975. 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. A Harvard Alumni Association tour runs March 14-21, 2021; a Commonwealth Club trip runs April 11-18, 2021; and a St. Olaf College trip runs April 17-28, 2021.
- 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. Dates have not yet been set for 2o21.
- Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, PA, offers an annual Returning to the Roots of Civil Rights Tour, which usually runs in June.
- 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.
School trip planners
- Educational Travel Adventures and Explorica by WorldStrides have set tours for school groups, while Hemisphere Educational Travel, Concept Tours, and Brightspark Travel can organize trips for your group.
- UK-based Rayburn Tours will customize tours for British groups.
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