Travel guide: US Civil Rights Trail from SC to Mississippi and more
By Chevel Johnson, Associated Press
From the port where enslaved Africans entered America to the house where Medgar Evers was assassinated, a new guide helps readers explore for themselves the history, milestones and moments of the American struggle for equality and justice.
In “Moon US Civil Rights Trail: A Traveler’s Guide to the People, Places and Events that Made the Movement,” author Deborah D. Douglas explores destinations such as Selma, Alabama and Memphis, Tennessee – with historical background, itineraries maps to help the traveler identify the footsteps of the heroes of the civil rights movement – and understand the struggles they suffered and the triumphs they achieved.
“Exploring the course of civil rights is one way of connecting our experience to a time when Black Americans have become united, committed and stronger,” Douglas says in the book’s preface.
His release comes as the US calculates racial injustice following the death of George Floyd’s police in Minneapolis last May.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Douglas said that when the opportunity arose to travel the trail, he took it.
The US Civil Rights Trail is a collection of churches, schools, museums and other landmarks in the South, where activists challenged secession in the 1950s and 1960s to promote social justice, according to its website. The trail, announced in 2018, includes more than 100 surviving milestones, featuring significant events of the civil rights movement in 15 states.
Douglas’s book mainly describes sites in South – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington, DC
“The path is endless,” Douglas said. “It goes as far east as Wilmington, Delaware, as far west as Kansas and south to Louisiana and Florida.”
“We are literally surrounded by greatness and we do not even know it,” he continued. “So many of the places I visited while writing this book are part of the everyday fabric of our lives, but we miss the opportunity to work with them in terms of the greatness they represent.”
She said her book, released in January, is not just “a basic guide … it is also a history book, a citizens’ book, a roadmap for activism and engagement with the democratic experience.”
There are snippets of information about some of the people who made the movement in every city it touches. In Charleston, South Carolina, for example, Douglas mentions Denmark Vesey, who bought his liberty using the proceeds of the Charleston lottery and in 1816 helped found the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the church where killed by a white supremacist almost 200 years later. And in Atlanta, he emphasizes the rev. Martin Luther King and U.S. Representative John Lewis.
Douglas said the path helps people understand what “righteous people” are fighting for.
“When key workers invoked living wage issues as a result of the pandemic, it goes back to the same issues that Dr. King focused on that day,” he said. “He is very involved in the things that happened 50, 60 years ago,” he said.
Douglas said he hopes readers will embrace the guide by incorporating some of the city-specific itineraries and, of course, visiting the listed monuments – such as the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma and Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Historic Site. He hopes that they will also get to know the voices, stories and culture that shape and celebrate the experience of Black America in every city.
The book includes restaurant suggestions and playlists that include modern classics such as Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam,” mourning the racist murders of Emmett Till – a black teenager bent over by a white mob in 1955 – and a political activist. Medgar Evers, was killed on the way to Jackson’s home.
An award-winning journalist, Douglas has also served as Distinguished Visiting Journalism Professor Eugene S. Pulliam at DePauw University. CEO of MLK50: Justice Trough Journalism and is currently the Senior Leader of The OpEd Project, a global initiative to strengthen under-represented voices.
“I tell you when to go, where to shop, where to hang out and, especially, where to eat,” she said, laughing, referring to her guide. “In the following chapters, I made timelines to tell you about the civil rights movement until 2020. It is a book about the past, but it also has to do with now.”
Kabria Baumgartner, an associate professor of American studies and English at the University of New Hampshire, said the book is very relevant.
“In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, more people seem to be visiting historic sites and sites dating back to the history of racial justice in the United States,” he said in an email. “Once the pandemic is gone, we have to deal with our collective trauma to heal from it. In some ways, the path of US civil rights can guide us, literally and figuratively, and push us. “