Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site

Mary McLeod Bethune was one of a formidable generation of leaders who arose in the early 20th century within the African American¬†community to confront racism and segregation, and to claim the community’s rightful place in the American dream. “What does the Negro want? His answer is very simple. He wants only what all other Americans want. He wants opportunity to make real what the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights say, what the Four Freedoms establish.” Mary McLeod Bethune founded Bethune-Cookman¬†College in Daytona Beach, Florida and served as an advisor on African American affairs to four presidents. She founded the National Council of Negro Women to address the problems of the black community. Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site is a three-story Victorian town house that was Mary McLeod Bethune’s last Washington, D.C. residence and the first headquarters of her organization.

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Central High School National Historic Site

Three years after the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision officially ended public-school segregation, a federal court ordered the Little Rock school system to desegregate. Governor Orval Faubus defied the court and called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine African American students (who became known as “The Little Rock Nine”) from entering the building. When white mobs threatened the students and Faubus failed to restore order, President Eisenhower dispatched federal troops to Little Rock and placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal command. Despite continued resistance by Faubus over a two-year period, Central High School was eventually integrated.

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Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a museum on the civil rights movement, from the era of segregation to the birth of the movement and the worldwide struggle for civil and human rights. The exhibits are organized into several galleries. The Barriers Gallery, designed to display everyday life for blacks in Birmingham during the post-war era of segregation, includes exhibits such as white and colored drinking fountains, and the Carver Theatre, a part of Birmingham’s African American district where blacks could see movies without being required to sit in the balcony. The Movement Gallery has displays on the turbulent times from 1955 to 1965, when the Rev. Martin Luther King was most active in Alabama. The Milestones Gallery consists of fifteen burnished steel obelisks that detail dates of significant events from the civil rights movement, including the election of the first blacks to the Alabama Legislature, the Alabama Supreme Court, the U. S. Senate, the Birmingham City Council, and the Birmingham’s office of the Mayor. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is also a center for education and discussion about civil and human rights issues. The Institute’s projects and services promote research, provide information, and encourage discussion on human rights in America and around the world.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site preserves the boyhood home of the great civil rights leader. The home is in the residential section of “Sweet Auburn,” the center of black Atlanta, two blocks west of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King’s grandfather and father served as pastors. Martin Luther King’s contributions do not need to be recounted here. Let us just say that he, at long last, healed the nation’s (self-inflicted) wounds and gave the country a new standard of citizenship: “Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man but to win his friendship and understanding.”

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National Civil Rights Museum

The National Civil Rights Museum would be worth visiting just to see the building in which it is located: the former Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. But the museum also presents a comprehensive review of America’s long struggle for racial justice, from slavery through the Civil War and emancipation, to segregation and the black migration to the north, and finally the twentieth-century civil rights movement. The museum houses over 10,000 square feet of permanent exhibits, which naturally highlight the life and career of Dr. King. Visitors can look into the room that Dr. King occupied at the motel, which has been restored to its condition on April 4, 1968, and see place on the motel balcony where he was assassinated.

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