Southern states join to promote civil rights tourism

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Southern states that once fought to maintain racial segregation are now banding together to promote civil rights tourism at sites including the building where the Confederacy was born and the motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died.

Fourteen states stretching from Kansas to Delaware, including all of the Deep South, are joining to promote the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, which will highlight about 130 sites linked to the modern civil rights movement. The joint effort is being unveiled as part of the MLK holiday weekend.

Individual Southern states have used such promotions for years, beginning with a black history trail launched by Alabama in the 1980s, but never before have they joined together in a single push to bolster civil rights tourism, said Lee Sentell, a leader of the effort.

“Everyone wants to showcase their landmarks. For the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, we’re saying ‘What happened here changed the world,’” said Sentell, Alabama’s tourism director.

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Most states participating in the promotion are part of the Atlanta-based Travel South USA, which is funded by state tourism agencies to lure visitors to the region. The organization has launched civilrightstrail.com and is placing advertisements in national magazines to promote the trail.

Landmarks on the trial include churches, courthouses, schools, businesses and other sites that played a role in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ’60s, plus memorials and museums that document the period.

Some of the sites on the list are familiar, like Alabama’s Capitol.

Delegates met in the white-domed building to form the Confederate States of America in 1861, and King spoke outside the building at the end of the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march in 1965. The trail also features the National Civil Rights Museum, located at the Lorraine Motel where King was assassinated in…

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