The Civil Rights Movement: Atlanta, Montgomery, Selma, Birmingham

Journey through the Deep South to learn the history of the Civil Rights Movement and its defining clashes. Hear powerful stories of struggle and be inspired by resilient heroes.
Rating (4.96)
Program No. 22657RSBLOG
8 days
Starts at

At a Glance

Journey south into the heart of the civil rights movement to gain a deeper understanding of the historic and continued struggle for racial equality in the United States. Follow in the footsteps of the venerable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his legendary marches, and hear the moving story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott. Walk across the Selma Bridge with an activist who took part in the peaceful protest that devolved into unforgivable violence known as “Bloody Sunday.” Pay homage at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church as you learn the story of the victims of the 1963 KKK bombing. Study how these catalysts ignited a movement that would define this pivotal moment in American history, and discuss how they echo through the racial climate in America today.

Extend Your Adventure

This program offers an optional program extension.

Extension: Civil Rights in Memphis

Extend your civil rights studies as you visit some of the epicenters of black history in Memphis, from Beale Street to the Lorraine Hotel, where Dr. King was assassinated.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
This programs involves walking up to two miles daily over uneven terrain. Standing for lectures in museums up to an hour. Some historical structures have stairs/no elevator.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Commemorate the central figures of civil rights on field trips to the Rosa Parks Museum, Carter Center and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
  • Follow the path of heroic marches through Atlanta and Birmingham and from Selma to Montgomery, now a National Historic Trail.
  • Learn about the movement from an activist who was a witness and participant in some of America’s most significant civil rights battles.

General Notes

Select dates are designated for small groups and are limited to 24 participants or less. Select departures are offered with a longer itinerary; including 2 nights in Memphis.
Featured Expert
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Linda Randall
After retiring from a career with IBM that spanned over 35 years, Linda has redirected her efforts into community support activities. Although a "Yankee" by birth having grown up in Vermont, Linda has incorporated her passion for Atlanta history, performing arts and literature and shares her enthusiasm by volunteering at multiple venues including the Atlanta History Center, Swan House, the Margaret Mitchell House, the Fox Theatre and the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

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Camilla Comerford
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Larry Spruill
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Dianne Harris
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Linda Randall
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Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn: A Saga of Race and Family
by Gary Pomerantz
Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don't You Grow Weary
by by Elizabeth Partridge
An inspiring examination of the landmark march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this book focuses on the children who faced terrifying violence in order to walk alongside him in their fight for freedom.
The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement
by Taylor Branch
Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement
by Tomiko Brown-Nagin
The Civil Rights movement that emerged in the United States after World War II was a reaction against centuries of racial discrimination. In this sweeping history of the Civil Rights movement in Atlanta--the South's largest and most economically important city--from the 1940s through 1980, Tomiko Brown-Nagin shows that the movement featured a vast array of activists and many sophisticated approaches to activism. Long before "black power" emerged and gave black dissent from the mainstream civil rights agenda a new name, African Americans in Atlanta debated the meaning of equality and the steps necessary to obtain social and economic justice. This groundbreaking book uncovers the activism of visionaries--both well-known legal figures and unsung citizens--from across the ideological spectrum who sought something different from, or more complicated than, "integration." Local activists often played leading roles in carrying out the integrationist agenda of the NAACP, but some also pursued goals that differed markedly from those of the venerable civil rights organization. Brown-Nagin discusses debates over politics, housing, public accommodations, and schools. She documents how the bruising battle over school desegregation in the 1970s, which featured opposing camps of African Americans, had its roots in the years before Brown v. Board of Education.
Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965
by Juan Williams and Julian Bond
From the Montgomery bus boycott to the Little Rock Nine to the Selma–Montgomery march, thousands of ordinary people who participated in the American civil rights movement; their stories are told in Eyes on the Prize. From leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., to lesser-known figures such as Barbara Rose Johns and Jim Zwerg, each man and woman made the decision that somethinghad to be done to stop discrimination. These moving accounts and pictures of the first decade of the civil rights movement are a tribute to the people, black and white, who took part in the fight for justice and the struggle they endured.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever. Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.
Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror
by Equal Justice Initiative
Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror documents EJI's multi-year investigation into lynching in twelve Southern states during the period between Reconstruction and World War II. EJI researchers documented 4075 racial terror lynchings of African Americans in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia between 1877 and 1950 - at least 800 more lynchings of black people in these states than previously reported in the most comprehensive work done on lynching to date. Lynching in America makes the case that lynching of African Americans was terrorism, a widely supported phenomenon used to enforce racial subordination and segregation. Lynchings were violent and public events that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials.
Freedom's Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement
by by Lynne Olsen
A collection of profiles of some of the fearless, resourceful female leaders of the Civil Rights Movement documents the accomplishments of Ida Wells, who led the protest against lynching; Pauli Murray, who organized the first lunch counter sit-in; Jo Ann Robinson, who helped launch the Montgomery bus boycott; and others
Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama's Black Belt
by by Hassan Kwame Jeffries
Early in 1966, African Americans in rural Lowndes County, Alabama, aided by activists from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), established an all-black, independent political party called the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO). The group, whose ballot symbol was a snarling black panther, was formed in part to protest the barriers to black enfranchisement that had for decades kept every single African American of voting age off the county’s registration books. Even after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, most African Americans in this overwhelmingly black county remained too scared even to try to register. Their fear stemmed from the county’s long, bloody history of whites retaliating against blacks who strove to exert the freedom granted to them after the Civil War.
A Perilous Path: Talking Race, Inequality, and the Law
by by Bryan Stevenson, Loretta Lynch, and Sherrilyn Ifill
This blisteringly candid discussion of the American dilemma in the age of Trump brings together the head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the former attorney general of the United States, a bestselling author and death penalty lawyer, and a star professor for an honest conversation the country desperately needs to hear. Drawing on their collective decades of work on civil rights issues as well as personal histories of rising from poverty and oppression, these leading lights of the legal profession and the fight for racial justice talk about the importance of reclaiming the racial narrative and keeping our eyes on the horizon as we work for justice in an unjust time.
Selma, Lord, Selma: Girlhood Memories of the Civil Rights
by Sheyann Webb-Christburg, Rachel West Nelson Millhouse, Frank Sikorand
Sheyann Webb was eight years old and Rachel West was nine when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. arrived in Selma, Alabama, on January 2, 1965. He came to organize non-violent demonstrations against discriminatory voting laws. Selma, Lord, Selma is their firsthand account of the events from that turbulent winter of 1965--events that changed not only the lives of these two little girls but the lives of all Alabamians and all Americans. From 1975 to 1979, award-winning journalist Frank Sikora conducted interviews with Webb and West, weaving their recollections into this luminous story of fear and courage, struggle a
Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement
by John Lewis and Michael D'Orso
The award-winning national bestseller, Walking with the Wind, is one of our most important records of the American civil rights movement. Told by John Lewis, who Cornel West calls a “national treasure,” this is a gripping first-hand account of the fight for civil rights and the courage it takes to change a nation. In 1957, a teenaged boy named John Lewis left a cotton farm in Alabama for Nashville, the epicenter of the struggle for civil rights in America. Lewis’s adherence to nonviolence guided that critical time and established him as one of the movement’s most charismatic and courageous leaders. Lewis’s leadership in the Nashville Movement—a student-led effort to desegregate the city of Nashville using sit-in techniques based on the teachings of Gandhi—set the tone for major civil rights campaigns of the 1960s. Lewis traces his role in the pivotal Selma marches, Bloody Sunday, and the Freedom Rides. Inspired by his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Lewis’s vision and perseverance altered history. In 1986, he ran and won a congressional seat in Georgia, and remains in office to this day, continuing to enact change. The late Edward M. Kennedy said of Lewis, “John tells it like it was…Lewis spent most of his life walking against the wind of the times, but he was surely walking with the wind of history.”
While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age during the Civil Rights Movement
by Carolyn Maull McKinstry
On September 15, 1963, a Klan-planted bomb went off in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Fourteen-year-old Carolyn Maull was just a few feet away when the bomb exploded, killing four of her friends in the girl’s restroom she had just exited. It was one of the seminal moments in the Civil Rights movement, a sad day in American history . . . and the turning point in a young girl’s life.

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