A Closer Look at 4 New U.S. Civil Rights Trail Sites — Plus How to Plan Your Visit

The U.S. Civil Rights Trail honors significant Black history sites — and it’s getting some new, must-see additions.

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music, with its neon sign lit up at night
The Stax Museum of American Soul Music, which includes 2,000 musical artifacts, in Memphis. Photo:

Ronnie Booze/Courtesy of Stax Museum

While some historic institutions remain the same over time, the U.S. Civil Rights Trail is still very much a work in progress. When it was formalized in 2018, the route included 120 sites across Washington, D.C., and 14 states, most of which are located in the American South. Many of the original locations are well known — among them Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, the site of a 1963 bombing that killed four young Black girls, and the Atlanta home where Martin Luther King Jr. was born.

But lesser-known places related to the Civil Rights Era of the 1950s and 60s are finally receiving some much-deserved attention. In February, the Civil Rights Trail welcomed 14 more sites in Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia. Some of these destinations, such as Nashville’s National Museum of African American Music, were recently created. It opened in January 2021 to honor Black American music styles, including blues, gospel, jazz, hip-hop, and more.

A poster of Louis Armstrong hanging in a display case along with other memorabilia, including his trumpet
A circa-1935 Louis Armstrong concert poster at the National Museum of African American Music, in Nashville.

Courtesy of National Museum of African American Music

Other sites on the trail have been around much longer, like the Robert “Bob” Hicks House in Bogalusa, Louisiana, once a safe haven and medical-emergency station. It was also the unofficial office of a Black-owned law firm that took depositions and prepared federal lawsuits. Perhaps most excitingly: some sites are still evolving. The McDonogh No. 19 elementary school building, which housed one of the first integrated schools in New Orleans, is being transformed into a museum and educational space.

Oklahoma is not yet represented on the trail, but one of its state senators, Kevin Matthews, is on a mission to change that. He wants to include 13 historically Black communities and a new center, Greenwood Rising, that is dedicated to Tulsa’s Black Wall Street and the city’s 1921 Race Massacre. He anticipates it will take three to five years to strengthen the tourism infrastructure surrounding these sites and to apply and join the trail. “We can’t expect anyone else to move our Black history forward,” Matthews says. “It’s our responsibility.”


Vintage black and white photo of Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans
Dooky Chase’s Restaurant has been the place to eat Creole food in New Orleans since 1941.

Courtesy of Dooky Chase's

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, a Creole fixture in New Orleans from Edgar Dooky Chase Jr. and Leah Chase, was an important forum during the Civil Rights Era, hosting Martin Luther King Jr. and local leaders.

When to Go

Summer (if you can take the heat), to catch the Essence Festival of Culture, which celebrates Black women and community.

Where to Stay

The Black-owned Duchess Bed & Breakfast is an eight-bedroom property with a beautiful garden that’s within walking distance of the 187-year-old St. Charles Avenue streetcar.


Statues of baseball players at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum
Bronze statues of catcher Josh Gibson and other players at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, in Kansas City, Missouri.

Courtesy of Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, in Kansas City, shares the stories of all-Black teams during segregation and explains how the game changed after players broke the color barrier. Jackie Robinson, who integrated the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, was only the first of many.

When to Go

Summer, to combine the visit with a Royals game at Kauffman Stadium.

Where to Stay

The stately Eldridge Hotel is just a half-hour drive west across the border in Lawrence, Kansas. The original building, called the Free State Hotel, was attacked twice by pro-slavery forces and rebuilt each time — first in 1858, then just eight years later.


In Memphis, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music showcases the record label’s hit-making legacy and features stars like Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, and Booker T. and the MGs. The museum is located on the original site of the Stax Records studio.

When to Go

Fall, to hear live music at the Soulsville USA Festival.

Where to Stay

Central Station Hotel, in Memphis, is a reminder of the train journeys of the Great Migration. Black families from the Jim Crow–era South passed through this station on the way to the urban North and West. The hotel is located in Memphis Central Station, which opened in 1914 and is still a stop on the train from New Orleans to Chicago.


Exterior of the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History
The Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History, in Virginia.

David Hungate/Dominion Images

The Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History occupies the Sutherlin Mansion, which once hosted Confederate president Jefferson Davis and then became a whites-only library, and was subsequently a site for civil rights sit-ins during the 1960s.

When to Go

Fall, to see the colorful foliage on the Blue Ridge Parkway, adding in a stop at the Booker T. Washington National Monument.

Where to Stay

An hour south in Greensboro, North Carolina, the Black-owned Historic Magnolia House is a bed-and-breakfast with midcentury modern details. It was listed in The Negro Motorist Green Book, a publication that helped Black people travel safely during segregation. Guests have included Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, and James Baldwin.

A version of this story first appeared in the September 2022 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline “The Road Ahead.”

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