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Though it took two tumultuous decades, the fight for Civil Rights turned a page in U.S. history. To share this important ongoing story, the National Parks Service has introduced the new U.S. Civil Rights Trail with the theme, “What happened here changed the world.” It links historic courthouses, schools, museums and churches across 14 states, and creates a meaningful journey that’s both educational and inspiring. From Topeka to Memphis, Atlanta to Alabama, and all the way to Washington, D.C., visitors can follow in the footsteps of the Civil Rights movement including more than 100 stops on the trail…with more being added.

Overwhelmed? Here’s how to experience the best of the Trail via an eight-day road trip.

RELATED: 7 reasons to visit Memphis now

Photo courtesy of The Civil Rights Trail

Be moved in Memphis

Bigger than the blues and Elvis, Memphis is the site of the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was killed. The hotel is now the National Civil Rights Museum, where you can discover an outstanding collection of exhibits, films and oral histories exploring Civil Rights from the 17th century to present day.

STAY Originally built in 1859, the luxurious Peabody Hotel is famous for the ducks who parade into the lobby every day, as well as deluxe accommodations and upscale dining.

EAT Dine on fabulous Southern bites at B.B. King’s 3rd-floor eatery Itta Bena. Try the jumbo shrimp and grits or duck and waffles.

Photo courtesy of the Civil Rights Trail

Jump on over to Jackson                                  

Take the self-guided Jackson Civil Rights Movement Driving Tour, which loops in 81 historical sites in four neighborhoods. Sites include the home of slain Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers, the former Greyhound Bus station where protests against segregation took place and the “new” state capitol where Jim Crow laws were passed. Newly opened is the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum featuring high-tech, interactive displays and videos.

STAY Remnants of its glorious past stand tall and proud at the stately King Edward Hotel, now a Hilton Garden Inn. The hotel was built in 1923 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places, retaining its historic elegance and design, while providing the latest comfort amenities.

EAT A staple in downtown Jackson since 1935, the legendary Mayflower Cafe offers an authentic taste of the Deep South. Recipes for succulent Greek-inspired seafood have been passed down through the Kountouris family for generations. Try their famous “comeback sauce” on everything! The homemade coconut crème pie is also amazing.

Photo courtesy of the Civil Rights Trail

Follow the Selma to Montgomery Trail 

In 1965, African Americans marched peacefully from Selma to Montgomery to support voting rights. After it turned violent, Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination in voting based on race or color. Cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge as they did and visit the Selma-to-Montgomery Trail Interpretative Center to learn more about the march. Head to the Rosa Parks Museum and see how her bus boycott served as an impetus for change. Stand in the pulpit where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached as well as the Civil Rights Memorial, inscribed with names of those who died fighting for equality.

STAY Located in downtown Montgomery, the Hampton Inn & Suites provides an ideal location for exploring local Civil Rights trail landmarks.

EAT: Enjoy fabulous fried chicken and other delicious down-home Southern cooking at Martin’s, named as one of the “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.”

Photo courtesy of the Civil Rights Trail

Discover Dr. King’s legacy in Atlanta   

As the cornerstone of the Civil Rights movement, Atlanta showcases many important landmarks in Dr. King’s story. Visit his birthplace; the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site; Ebenezer Baptist Church where he served as co-pastor with his father and The King Center, the burial site of King and his wife, Coretta.

STAY Located in downtown Atlanta, the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center is adjacent to CNN Center and a few minutes’ walk to other popular sites. This 4-star hotel welcomes guests with two restaurants, a full-service spa, and outdoor pool.

EAT Dine on soul food with a side dish of history at Paschal’s. Think fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, yams, collards, cornbread and peach cobbler.

Photo courtesy of the Civil Rights Trail

Sit in Greensboro, North Carolina

In 1960, four black college students staged a sit-in at the lunch counter of Woolworth’s department store, serving as a spark for other protests. The original Woolworth’s building has been turned into the International Civil Rights Center & Museum; the seats and counter remain intact.

STAY The O’Henry Hotel was built in 1919 and named after William Porter, who wrote under the pen name O.Henry. Rebuilt in the ’90s, this historic hotel also offers High Tea and special events.

EAT: Prepare for a feast of sweet potato waffles, maple pecan smear and chicken cutlet and Dame’s Chicken & Waffles.

Photo courtesy of the Civil Rights Trail

Explore memorials in Washington, DC 

Our nation’s capital is the northernmost point along the trail. Walk along the National Mall and feel the spirit of the largest human rights protest in American history. In 1963, Dr. King inspired more than 250,000 with his “I Have a Dream” speech. At the U.S. Supreme Court, the groundbreaking decision in Brown v. Board of Education became law. Stand in awe of the massive new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which captures the strength and leadership of our nation’s greatest civil rights leader.

STAY The city’s first micro-hotel, the Hotel Hive combines contemporary innovation with historic charm. For food and spirits, check out &pizza and &bar.

EAT Enjoy American fare with a Southern accent at Southern Hospitality. Go for the SoHo fried chicken or shrimp and grits.

Tagged: Atlanta, Memphis, Washington DC

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Mira Temkin

Mira Temkin

Lover of lore with a thirst for adventure, Mira has her bags packed -- ready to go in a flash. She writes with spirited soul about destinations, hotels and spas.

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