U.S. Civil Rights Trail book launched in Birmingham

Heroes of the Civil Rights era joined author and Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell to launch book.

Charles Avery Jr. who took part in the 1963 Children’s Marches. Photo by Art Meripol

The people and places of the Civil Rights Movement have long been honored for their courage. The U.S. Civil Rights Trail has grown up to honor their work for the cause of equality and justice.

Now a new book, The Official U.S. Civil Rights Trail, serves as a companion to the trail, telling the stories of individual experiences, bringing the movement alive for a new generation.

Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell wrote the book, which is illustrated with photographs by Birmingham photographer Art Meripol.

Dr. Dina Avery, now a professor at UAB. Photo by Art Meripol

At the launch Tuesday in the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, some of the heroes shared the stage. DeJuana Thompson, CEO of the Institute was there, along with Rev. Arthur Price Jr, pastor of 16th Street Baptist Church; Charles Avery Jr., who participated in the 1963 Children’s Marches, and his daughter, Dr. Dina Avery, author of “Jumping the Train: An Extraordinary True Story.” Students from Carver High School and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin also participated.

“More than 50 years ago, my classmates and I marched peacefully to 16th Street Baptist Church to fight for desegregation and never imagined the impact one group of young students would have on the future of our Magic City,” said Charles Avery Jr., a participant of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade of 1963. “This demonstration and countless others have played an integral role in shaping Birmingham’s history and the monumental part we played in the civil rights movement.”

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The new book is designed to bring the stories to life.

At the same time, the Institute introduced a new augmented reality experience, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the historic events.

“Birmingham was an epicenter of the civil rights movement,” said Sentell. “From Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing to the Children’s Crusade and other historic events, it’s important that we honor our brave leaders who stood on the front lines to fight for fundamental freedoms. Through this Civil Rights Trail book, website and AR experience, we want to encourage people to take their own journey along the Civil Rights Trail, particularly places in our own backyard like Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma while sharing the journey with others.”

Lee Sentell shares a thought with long-time activist Odessa Woolfolk. Photo by Art Meripol

Sentell and his counterparts in 14 neighboring states helped create the Trail, beginning in 2007 and officially launching in 2018.

“The U.S. Civil Rights Trail book and AR experience help connect travelers of all ages with the stories and places that changed the world,” said Woodfin. “While much of Birmingham’s past reminds us of the bloodshed and strife we suffered decades ago, our community has undergone significant healing and progress in recent years. However, our work is not done, and we must remain committed to being the Birmingham we hope to be, not the Birmingham we once were.”

The U.S. Civil Rights Trail book was published by Alabama Media Group in partnership with the Alabama Tourism Department. Proceeds will benefit a campaign to install LED lighting to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Books are available online from Alabama Media Group and from Amazon, at the King Center and in various bookshops.

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