Montgomery is a city of dichotomies. A telegram by Jefferson Davis to order the bombing of Fort Sumter that began the Civil War was sent from the Winters Building on one side of the Montgomery’s Court Square. On the other side lies the bus stop where Rosa Parks boarded a city bus and helped launch the Civil Rights movement. There’s the White House of the Confederacy where Davis lived and served as president of the Confederacy, and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. first preached and led the city bus boycott following Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat to white patrons.
There’s plenty of history to explore in Alabama’s capital, but the most impressive attractions are those dedicated to the Civil Rights movement, from the Rosa Parks Library and Museum to the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the only memorial dedicated to the enslaved African Americans who were lynched. There’s also the Freedom Rides Museum, showcasing the 21 young people who rode buses to the South to fight segregation through nonviolent protest and were met with violence, and the Civil Rights Memorial Center, a tribute to those who died in the civil rights struggle between 1954 and 1968.
A visit to Montgomery in February for Black History Month brings to vivid life the struggles, sacrifices and successes of African Americans and others who fought for justice, from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond.
To view a complete list of Civil Rights sites in Montgomery, part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, visit Civilrightstrail.com/destination/montgomery. For more information about Montgomery, visit Visitingmontgomery.com.
Visitors can learn about Rosa Parks’ momentous 5-minute bus ride, as well as the city’s part in the Civil Rights Movement at the Rosa Parks Library and Museum. The attraction includes a 1950s Montgomery bus, videos, time machine, exhibits and more. Due to the pandemic, the museum is offering self-guided tours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, closed weekends. All visitors to the museum are required to wear face masks, practice social distancing, with groups limited to eight..
For something literary, visitors may stay in the “Zelda Suite,” part of the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum. The couple once lived in the house — Zelda was a native of Montgomery — and is the location where F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote parts of “Tender is the Night.” Accommodations at the museum, which include utilizing the entire house for the night, are available through Airbnb.
Enjoy pizza on the patio from Bibb Street Pizza Company with brews from Common Bond Brewers next door. Prevail Union Montgomery on Dexter serves up craft coffee drinks derived from sustainable coffee farms and its creations have been causing a stir; it’s been written up in the “New York Times,” “Food & Wine” and “The New Yorker.” Order the Alabama Stinger, espresso sweetened with honey, poured into a shaker with local organic milk and served cold.
There are numerous ways to enjoy the outdoors in Montgomery. Coosa River Adventures in nearby Wetumpka rents canoes, kayaks and offers guided trips on whitewater. Close by is the Swayback Bridge Trail, a 4.6-mile loop trail for hiking and mountain biking. Lanark’s Alabama Nature Center offers boardwalks and trails at its 350-acre outdoor education facility. In town, the 293-acre Blount Cultural Park provides walking trails and ponds but it also houses the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.