As interest in civil rights tourism grows, Atlanta is a key spot

Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Anne Elizabeth Barnes grew up in Atlanta and attended Chamblee High School and Georgia State University.

Despite those deep ties, Barnes delighted in discovering even more about her hometown when she went on a Civil Rights Tour a year or so ago.

There are a lot of things we don’t experience,” said Barnes, who went on the tour with her husband, Tom Banks, who lives in New York. “We say, ‘Oh, I can save that for when someone comes in from out of town.’ We don’t take advantage of the rich resources we have in Atlanta.”

The tour took her along historic Auburn Avenue, to South View Cemetery and to the home of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., where he and wife, Coretta, raised their family.

“It touched me so much,” said Barnes, 61. “Here I was walking where Dr. King walked, where they (the King family) were probably frightened but also where so many great things happened.”

Atlanta’s role in black history and the civil rights movement has long been a part of the tourism industry. Atlanta is also a short drive to Birmingham, Ala., and Savannah, which both have civil rights legacies.

Thousands of Atlantans have journeyed to Washington, D.C., to visit the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Many, though, may not know that there are so many jewels in their midst back home. Atlanta has long been an important stop for people interested in learning about the movement. It is the home of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Atlanta Life Insurance Co., Ebenezer Baptist Church, Big Bethel AME Church and the Atlanta University Center. Civil rights leaders such as U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Ralph D. Abernathy, Joseph Lowery, James Orange and C.T. Vivian also called it home.

“Visitors from around the world come to Atlanta annually to explore the history of the American civil rights movement,” William Pate, president and CEO of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, said in a statement. “Our city is fortunate to have several attractions and cultural institutions dedicated to telling this important story.”

Tom Houck, a former driver for King and a SCLC organizer, started Civil Rights Tours. The hourslong tour starts and ends on Auburn Avenue at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and near the crypts of the Kings. Today, Houck says it goes by nearly two dozen spots.

“So much of that civil rights history has evolved from here,” he said. He estimates more than 8,000 people have taken the tour. Riders have included family reunions, civic associations, business groups, foundation members and elected officials.

In 2014, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights opened its doors in Atlanta near the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola. The center had more than 194,000 visitors last year, and officials expect that number to increase slightly this year.

“Few cities can boast of such a civil rights history,” said CEO Derreck Kayongo. “Atlanta is the city of rights, in my view. … No other city has so many historic members of the civil rights movement. When you come to Atlanta, you can see that diversity and inclusion. … In my view, we are the nexus.”


Landmark neglect on civil rights tour

John Lewis reads powerful speech at museum opening

Morehouse College another link to new Smithsonian museum

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Living

Catching up with former V-103/WAOK’s Mo Ivory after her city council run
Catching up with former V-103/WAOK’s Mo Ivory after her city council run

CREDIT: Mo Ivory Posted Friday, November 24, 2017 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog Former V-103/WAOK host and attorney Mo Ivory wasn’t able to unseat an entrenched, well-respected Atlanta City Council member earlier this month but drew a respectable 37 percent of the vote. In...
New book helps Georgia genealogists research military commissions
New book helps Georgia genealogists research military commissions

A new sourcebook for Georgia genealogical research has just been published by Paul K. Graham, most noted for his Georgia Land Lottery books. “Georgia Military Commissions, 1798 to 1818” was created from books and materials found at the Georgia Archives and covers officers of various ranks and their units. Almost 10,000 men are listed, including...
As 6-year-old battles brain tumor, many help give him early Christmas
As 6-year-old battles brain tumor, many help give him early Christmas

Six-year-old Brantley Dobbs of Hiram loves superheroes, he loves his sister Lucy and he loves Christmas. About a year and a half ago, Brantley was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). Doctors thought Christmas 2016 might be his last. Now that he’s come this close to Christmas 2017, his parents...
Black Friday 2017: Don’t wait for Small Business Saturday to shop local
Black Friday 2017: Don’t wait for Small Business Saturday to shop local
Consumer spending has increased this holiday season with shoppers spending 3 to 9 percent more each week during the first two weeks of November compared to the same time period last year. Much of that shopping is happening online where Thanksgiving Day sales tracked a growth of 16.8 percent over last year, according to Adobe Analytics. The...
Cherish your loved ones, live with no regrets
Cherish your loved ones, live with no regrets

I barely turn off the car engine and I hear the loud barks echoing from inside the house. As I come in, the usual ritual starts: Our miniature Schnauzer jumps up and down, crying and wagging her tail, showing the extent of her love and devotion. No, I haven’t been gone for weeks or even days. My trip to the grocery store took less than an hour...
More Stories