State and local tourism officials this morning talked about a new multi-state effort to market memorials to the civil rights movement across the U.S., particularly in the South, where resistance was fierce.
The website civilrightstrail.com offers a guide to more than 100 places in 14 states, including the Central High School National Historic Site in Little Rock. A southern tourism group backed by state tourism agencies is funding the effort.
The website includes some informative segments on such separate issues as the lynching of Emmett Till, the freedom rides and the battle for school desegregation, which features the Little Rock story along with Brown v. Board of Education in Topeka, the abuse heaped on children in New Orleans, the closure of public schools in a Virginia town rather than integrate and others.
It is a great story and already a trail well-discovered by tourists, as I expected it would be when I wrote a column in 1993 about the need for a museum in Little Rock. That column set off a discussion that led to the establishment of a museum and then its inclusion in the National Park Service. The new civil rights trail website, in addition to pointing visitors to Central, notes the Little Rock Nine memorial at the Capitol, the Clinton Presidential Library, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the home of civil rights leader Daisy Bates and the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail downtown.
They say those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it. They also say some people don’t really care what the history books say about them.
If you haven’t been to the Central High visitor center, now 20 years old, you are overdue. It’s easily digestible, well presented and the drama of the TV footage of the time never seems to lose its power.