‘Footprints’ Of History: New Civil Rights Trail Book Prominently Features Atlanta Sites
Lee Sentell says the idea for “The Official United States Civil Rights Trail” came from a conversation he had years ago with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter Bernice.
“She said people don’t know the story,” said Sentell. “If you don’t know the story, then you don’t care. And so that’s what led me to this idea of ‘let’s help tell the story.’”
And so the book was born, filled with page after page of striking photos alongside historical context. The Civil Rights Trail spans 14 states, stretching as far north as Wilmington, Delaware, west to Topeka, Kansas, and across the south from to Louisiana to Florida.
Sentell, who leads Alabama’s department of tourism, says the book and the interactive website that’s been built to go along with it can act as a tour guide for a civil rights pilgrimage.
“We’ll make it easy for young people to understand the examples of what people in Birmingham, in Montgomery, in Memphis, in Jackson, in Richmond … what they went through in other places,” said Sentell
Among the Georgia locations featured in the book are two sites in Albany, one in Midway and seven in Atlanta, including the King Historic District, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Bernice King says the spots along the Civil Rights Trail are sacred ground that can tell a powerful story to those who visit them.
“These sites literally have the footprints of the people who made history, who changed he world,” she said. “It’s important that families, all across this nation, regardless of race or ethnicity, bring their children to these historical sites to learn the stories of brave, courageous, visionary, nonviolent individuals.”
She says the recent anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riot in which Black-owned businesses and institutions were destroyed serves as a reminder of the country’s obligation to preserve historically significant spots that are still around.
“These sites inspire us,” said King. “They inspire us to be champions of change. We see what ordinary people can do when ordinary people have a commitment and willingness to do whatever’s necessary to bring about change.”
The new book is being published at a time when the country is grappling with issues of racial justice and reckoning with a history of racism. It’s also coming out as the nation emerges from a pandemic that has limited our opportunity to travel and visit historic sites.
Mark Jaronski with Georgia’s Department of Tourism says the Civil Rights Trail can not only help bring visitors back to the state, but it can serve to educate them at the same time.
“The King District is incredibly important to not only Atlanta, but all of Georgia because of its uniqueness. It is the only site in the entire National Park System that follows a figure like Martin Luther King from birth to grave,” said Jaronski.