The trail will include some 75-100 historical sites.

Edmund Pettus Bridge
Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. residents and visitors will soon be able to walk in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Virginius B. Thornton, and other pioneers of the civil rights movement, thanks to a new trail planned by southern tourism board Travel South USA and the National Parks Service.

Slated to launch in January 2018 to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day as well as the 155th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the trail will stretch across vast swaths of the continental U.S.

Leaders of the project are working with academics to determine the most historically significant sites to include on the trail. They are planning to map out some 75-100 historical locations, mostly in the eastern U.S., Liz Bittner, president and CEO of Travel South USA, told Travel + Leisure.

The trail will include the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama where voters’ rights protesters were attacked by state police, the Martin Luther King Jr. Historical Site in Georgia, a new civil rights museum opening in Mississippi, the 16th Street Baptist church that was bombed by Klansmen, and the Woolworth lunch counters in North Carolina where several black students protested segregation laws.

As the debate over southern history continues to rage with the removal of Confederate monuments, members of the tourism industry in the Southern U.S. underlined the need to provide visitors with a rubric to learn about the rich history of the men and women who have fought against racial injustice throughout the centuries.

“It is incredibly important to make sure that our ancestry and our history remains an important part of telling the story of America. And the best way to do that is to engage our travelers and young people in understanding, so that atrocities don’t happen anymore,” Bittner said.