Civil rights struggle sites revisited

A statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. faces the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala, where a 1963 bombing took the lives of four young black girls. Photo Credit: KRT, 1999

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Key events in 1963, from organized protests in Alabama to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, galvanized the movement that eventually toppled Jim Crow laws in the South. The 50th anniversary of those events is a great time to visit sites pivotal to the civil rights struggle and African-American history.

BIRMINGHAM, ALA.

Founded in 1871, Birmingham grew so rapidly from a small town to a booming manufacturing center that it adopted the nickname "The Magic City." With hundreds of restaurants and a multitude of theaters, museums and sports activities, it's an entertaining and educational getaway referred to by many as the "Cradle of the Civil Rights Movement." General info: birminghamal.org

16TH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH

Constructed at its current location in 1911, the 16th Street Baptist Church was founded in 1873 as The First Colored Baptist Church of Birmingham. It is significant in the civil rights movement for a number of reasons, including its key function as a rallying point for movement leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., and the tragic bombing that occurred there on Sept. 15, 1963, which killed four young girls. Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2006, it continues to hold services and offer tours for visitors. 1530 Sixth Ave. N., 205-251-9402, 16thstreetbaptist.org

WHERE TO STAY

Cobb Lane Bed & Breakfast: A Victorian-style bed-and-breakfast, with crystal chandeliers, fine china and legendary Southern hospitality, near the Historic Five Points area. 1309 19th St. S., 205-918-9090, cobblanebandb.com

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The Hotel Highland: Touted as the city's premiere luxury boutique hotel, it includes 63 distinctive guest quarters with Brazilian bed linens and handcrafted furnishings. 1023 20th St. S., 205-933-9555, thehotelhighland.com

WHERE TO EAT

Highlands Bar and Grill: Fans of fine dining have flocked to Highlands Bar and Grill for French-inspired American cuisine since 1982. 2011 11th Ave. S., 205-939-1400, highlandsbarandgrill.com

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Saw's BBQ: Legendary for its mouthwatering ribs, chicken and pulled pork, Saw's BBQ is a bit off the beaten path but well worth the drive. 1008 Oxmoor Rd., Homewood, 205-879-1937, sawsbbq.com

MONTGOMERY, ALA.

The capital of Alabama was officially incorporated in 1819. Once the capital of the Confederate States of America (before its relocation to Richmond), in later years the city would serve as a backdrop for several advances in the civil rights movement, among them the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Selma to Montgomery marches. General info: visitingmontgomery.com

ROSA PARKS LIBRARY & MUSEUM

The museum is on the campus of Troy University, at the corner where Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955. Its 7,000 square feet include interactive multimedia, as well as a replica of a 1950s-era Montgomery city bus that highlights Parks' experience. 252 Montgomery St., 334-241-8615, trojan.troy.edu/community/rosa-parks-museum

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WHERE TO STAY

Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa: This four-star hotel has 345 rooms, 50 of them considered "premium." 201 Tallapoosa St., 334-481-5000, marriott.com

Red Bluff Cottage: Victorian-inspired bed-and-breakfast includes breakfast, dinner and a great view of central Montgomery. 551 Clay St., 334-264-0056, redbluffcottage.com

WHERE TO EAT

Michael's Table: This eclectic blend of soul and comfort food with a modern twist from chef Michael Hochalter is open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. 2960-A Zelda Place, 334-272-2500, michaelstable.net

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Dreamland BBQ: The legendary Dreamland Café opened in 1958, helmed by John "Big Daddy" Bishop. Inside you'll find a bar, dining booths, a potbellied stove and kind-to-your-wallet plates, sandwiches, desserts and more. 101 Tallappoosa St., 334-273-7427, dreamlandbbq.com

GREENSBORO, N.C.

Originally it was known as a tobacco and textile town -- but these days it's setting its sights on computer and nanotechnology. Much of the center city's early 20th century architecture remains intact, and multiple dining establishments and entertainment venues are located throughout the area. General info: visitgreensboronc.com

INTERNATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS CENTER & MUSEUM

The museum originally was a storefront for F.W. Woolworth Co. It also was the site of the Greensboro lunch-counter sit-in of Feb. 1, 1960, when four students, in an act of nonviolent civil protest, requested to be served like white patrons. The building remains intact, and the lunch counter is exactly as it was more than 50 years ago. The not-to-be-missed museum has nearly 20 permanent displays, as well as changing exhibits. 134 S. Elm St., 336-274-9199, sitinmovement.org

WHERE TO STAY

The Biltmore Greensboro Hotel: Built in 1903, the building has served as office space, apartments and then, finally, a hotel. It is the only historic boutique hotel in center city Greensboro and offers a chance to experience period high-end accommodations like no other in the Southeast. 111 W. Washington St., 336-272-3474, thebiltmoregreensboro.com

Dailey Renewal Retreat: This Queen Anne Victorian home was built in 1914 and offers comfortable and affordable accommodations. 808 Northridge St., 336-451-7742, daileyrenewalretreat.net

WHERE TO EAT

Liberty Oak Restaurant & Bar: Upscale dining and a full bar for lunch, brunch and dinner. The menu includes soups, appetizers, rainbow trout, beef tenderloin and vegetarian selections. 100 W. Washington St., 336-273-7057, libertyoakrestaurant.com

Emma Key's Flat Top Grill: Known for its affordable and irresistible beef burgers served with a wide variety of toppings, Emma Key's also offers fish and vegan options. 2206 Walker Ave., 336-285-9429, emmakeys.com

MEMPHIS, TENN.

Perhaps known best for its mix of blues, barbecue and Elvis Presley, Memphis is also the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death. On April 4, 1968, the iconic civil rights leader was shot and killed on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. General info: memphistravel.com

NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM

The former Lorraine Motel has been converted into the National Civil Rights Museum. With building additions and restoration to the motel, the site houses multiple permanent interactive exhibits and takes visitors on a tour through the room King stayed in at the time of his death. Ongoing updates to the facility currently prohibit full tours, but a special tour to the balcony where King once stood is available until work is completed in early 2014. 450 Mulberry St., 901-521-9699, civilrightsmuseum.org

WHERE TO STAY

The Peabody Hotel: This sumptuous hotel was built in 1869 and is known around the globe for its daily march of mallard ducks to and from the hotel's fountain. 149 Union Ave., 901-529-4000, peabodymemphis.com

The Roulhac Mansion: Recently added to the National Registry of Historic Places, The Roulhac Mansion -- built in 1914 -- boasts six beautiful rooms and includes a dining area, living room and hearth room. 810 E. McLemore Ave., 901-775-1665, roulhacmansion.com

WHERE TO EAT

Chez Philippe: If you're staying at the Peabody, don't pass up the opportunity to experience the classic French cuisine of executive chef Andreas Kisler. 149 Union Ave., 901-529-4188, peabodymemphis.com

Soul Fish Café: Popular local favorite offers big servings of tasty comfort food like fried seafood, smoked chicken and a variety of fresh vegetables. 862 S. Cooper St., 901-725-0722, soulfishcafe.com

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