This week, the USA has been celebrating Martin Luther King Day. Although he is well known for the iconic speech in Washington DC – I have a dream, he was born in Atlanta. A unique and very moving tour would be to start in his birthplace of Atlanta, move to Montgomery where he was the pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Then move on to Selma, where the voting rights movement came to a head. Finally, finish in Memphis where he was killed in 1968. A good idea would be to watch some of the movies around his life – such as Selma.
Atlanta is a direct flight from Gatwick and is a busy airport, but straightforward to get into the city. There’s lots to do here – it’s the birthplace of Coca-Cola for a start. Plus a great city for movie and TV locations – you can do a tour of the Walking Dead locations (from Series 3-6), The Stranger Things, Gone with the Wind and various reality shows. There’s a thriving foodie scene now in Atlanta, so do a tour to find delicious food and wine. History tours, civil rights tours – plus just enjoy city life. The Martin Luther King Visitor Center is a moving memorial to him and his wife.
Spend a few days in Atlanta, then pick up a car. Montgomery is about 160 miles drive, and a couple of hours drive away. You can explore 19th century life in Old Alabama Town. Lots of museums about civil rights. The pedestrian crossing outside the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church has footsteps rather than lines representing the steps that the protestors took from Selma to the capitol building nearby.
Selma is just over 50 miles away from Montgomery, but you don’t need to walk it these days – its an easy drive. There’s less to see here, but definitely walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the march started.
It’s a lot further to Memphis and you cross the state line from Alabama into Tennessee. A drive of over 300 miles, so I’d recommend a stopover en-route in Birmingham. Tripadvisor reports: “Whether you’re into the history of the Civil Rights movement, a fan of jazz music or just looking for culture and a few fun activities for the family, Sweet Birmingham is the place for you.“
Finally finish the Martin Luther King story in Memphis. So much to find here, especially if you’re a music fan. You’ve not only got the Elvis story to find at the Graceland mansion and the Elvis museum nearby but also the Stax Museum for fans of soul music. Also visit Sun Studios where Elvis recorded his first songs, its still a working studio today.
In the city is Beale Street, famous for its music of all kinds every night of the year. Take a bar crawl and find some of the best musicians that you’ve never heard of! Soul, blues, rock, country – every type of music is represented. You’re on the mighty Mississippi River here, so take a river cruise to relax and enjoy the scenery. I’d recommend 3 or 4 nights here.
You can either finish your tour here and fly home from Memphis (via Atlanta) or drive to New Orleans to enjoy more jazz and beignets. Alternatively, keep the music alive and drive to Nashville for some more country.
Whatever choices you make, I can help you plan and book a civil rights tour from Atlanta to Memphis, celebrating Martin Luther King and southern hospitality. I can also plan other themed tours in the USA and beyond – what interests you or where would you like to visit (I can find a theme for you).