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Family travel five: Visit U.S. civil rights landmarks

A sculpture by artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo depicts enslaved

A sculpture by artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo depicts enslaved people at The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala. Credit: The Washington Post via Getty Images / Ricky Carioti

Embark on a journey of discovery and understanding when you and your family visit these destinations and landmarks that play a part in the American civil rights story.

Here are five to consider:

1. National Memorial for Peace and Justice, Montgomery, Alabama

Open since April, 2018, the 6-acre memorial was conceived with the hope of creating a meaningful site where people could gather, learn and reflect on America’s history of racial inequality. Using sculpture, art and design to contextualize racial terror, the outdoor memorial, as well as the nearby Legacy Museum, were the inspiration of Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. Both are designed to provide comprehensive content about the legacy of slavery through contemporary issues, including the mass incarceration of African-American men and the current proliferation of mass shootings. Located less than a mile apart, a shuttle service runs between the museum and the memorial.

INFO www.EJI.org; museumandmemorial.eji.org/memorial; museumandmemorial.eji.org/museum

2. Alexandria, Virginia

Rising on the banks of the historic Potomac River, Alexandria, founded in 1746, is steeped in African-American history. Visit the city to seek an understanding of civil rights from colonial times to the Civil War, illuminated by a compelling collection of sites. Originally the segregated library for Alexandria’s African-American residents, the Black History museum documents the local and national African-American experience through exhibits, speakers and interactive programs. Visit the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center to learn about those who were enslaved at nearby Mount Vernon. This exhibit explores the household furnishings, art works, archaeological discoveries, documents, and demonstrates how closely intertwined the lives of the Washington family members were with those they enslaved. Walking tours of Old Town Alexandria, offered by Manumission Tour Company, provide additional insight by sharing little-known stories from the era of the slave trade.

INFO www.VisitAlexandriaVA.com

3. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Families can seek ongoing inspiration from the words and work of clergyman and civil rights leader, King, through a visit to this monument in West Potomac Park. The memorial, adjacent to the National Mall near the FDR Memorial and framing views of the Tidal Basin, features quotes extracted from the leader’s eloquent speeches emphasizing four of King’s primary messages: justice, democracy, hope and love. Site tours and Junior Ranger badge activities are available and can help extend the experience for children.

INFO www.nps.gov/mlkm/planyourvisit/.

4. Natchez, Mississippi

The story of slavery and African-American culture in Natchez is one of the most complex threads of the city’s multifaceted history. Visitors can delve into the past at the Museum of African American History & Culture on Main Street. Consider a double-decker bus tour (hop on and hop off at various locations) that launches at the Natchez Visitors Center and rolls through the southern town, passing many of the most significant landmarks. Narration is provided from the point of view of two slaves who lived during the difficult era when slave trading at local slave markets was a part of daily life.

INFO www.VisitNatchez.org.

5. The National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis

The museum complex includes the Lorraine Motel where King was assassinated as well as the building where James Earl Ray fired the shot. The museum seeks to open a dialogue about a history that spans the dark era of slavery through the modern Civil Rights Movement. A family guide is offered to assist adults in discussing the sensitive topics and events that are addressed within the museum.

INFO www.civilrightsmuseum.org

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