New Civil Rights Heritage Trail for Alabama’s Black Belt

Across the United States, heritage tourism is on the rise. To promote Alabama’s unique blend of Civil Rights history and cultural traditions, Auburn University and the Alabama Department of Tourism are teaming up to develop a Civil Rights Heritage Trail in Alabama.  The project aims to provide tourists with a rich travel experience by allowing access to Alabama’s Civil Rights sites through easy-to-follow routes and the inclusion of unique local restaurants, lodging and cultural amenities.

The guide will go beyond well-known Civil Rights museums to include many additional sites significant in the struggle for racial equality.  Auburn University staff will work closely with the Alabama Department of Tourism to build on the department’s current Civil Rights publication.

“Travelers from around the world continue to demand an update on heritage sites,” said Frances Smiley of the Alabama Department of Tourism. “This Civil Rights guide will enhance our current Civil Rights museum brochure and encourage travelers to stay longer in our state.”

The Trail will focus on central Alabama to provide a contiguous and manageable tourism route.  Many of the counties integral to the Trail are part of Alabama’s Black Belt, an area known for high rates of poverty, out migration and economic stagnation.  Thus, the project also seeks to highlight Black Belt assets and boost local economies.

“Developing a Civil Rights Heritage Trail in the Black Belt makes economic sense for the region,” said Auburn project leader Emily Blejwas.  “The project takes local histories and assets and markets them in a way that increases their power to benefit the region.”

Carolyn Gosa, mayor of York in Sumter County, believes the project will help to remove the stigma surrounding the Black Belt by promoting its distinctive heritage.  “This project will promote the importance of the Civil Rights Movement, preserve Black Belt history, increase tourism and positively impact the economy of rural Alabama,” said Gosa.

Cecil Williamson, mayor of Demopolis, calls the project long overdue.  She believes the guide will raise awareness of the part that Black Belt communities played in the Civil Rights Movement and help the economy by making it easier for travelers to locate these sites.

Project leaders will research Civil Rights sites and gather information throughout the state.  Information and inquiries can be directed to Emily Blejwas at (334) 414-2323 or