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Education Overcomes Ignorance During the Civil Rights Movement

Bordered by the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains on one side and a popular strand of Atlantic beaches on the other, the Carolinas offer more than just natural scenery. Their rich history, dating back to pre-Colonial times, includes a history with the Civil Rights Movement. A trip through the Carolinas introduces travelers to figures whose peaceful protests rippled through the region. It also showcases places sacred to the movement, from resilient churches to famous lunch counters.

Beginning at the Atlantic, in Charleston, South Carolina, this itinerary steers travelers northwest to Columbia, north to Rock Hill, then into North Carolina for stops in Greensboro and the Raleigh-Durham area.

Charleston, South Carolina

A trip to the harbor and seaside city of Charleston combines leisure with education. Walking tours of the city, ecological tours of its barrier islands, and stops at historic plantations and homes complement shopping sprees in the Charleston City Market, and walks on coastal beaches give travelers a well-rounded itinerary. To explore some of the city’s Civil Rights heritage, they can visit Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Founded in 1816, it’s the oldest AME church in the region. Its current building was rebuilt in 1891 after being burnt down. It has witnessed many tragedies, including the racially motivated shooting in 2015 that took the lives of nine worshipers. The church is a testament to both the movement’s ongoing importance, as well as the fortitude of Charleston’s Black community.

Columbia, South Carolina

South Carolina’s capital comes equipped with a variety of attractions, from great greenspaces at state parks and gardens to thought-provoking museums, such as the South Carolina State Museum or the Columbia Museum of Art. Travelers visiting on Saturdays can hit the Soda City Market to check out local goods and food trucks. Another iconic city sight is the South Carolina State House, where a protest against segregation took place in 1961. Visitors can tour the Capitol and see the adjacent monument enshrining the fight for civil rights. The home of a prominent Civil Rights Movement leader, Modjeska Monteith Simkins, can also be found in Columbia. A visit to the cottage, which was once used as a meeting place and lodging for activists, will teach travelers about this great American hero and her contributions to the movement in the state.

Rock Hill, South Carolina

Located in York County, Rock Hill, South Carolina, sits just south of the North Carolina border. Travelers can visit the city’s greenspaces, check out its expanding public art scene or even spend an afternoon at the Carowinds, a nearby renowned amusement park. They can delve into the area’s rich history by learning about the only federally recognized Native American tribe in the state, the Catawba, or the Revolutionary War battles that took place in Rock Hill. The city also has its share of Civil Rights history. Black students staged a sit-in protest after being denied service at the McCrory’s Five and Dime lunch counter. These sit-ins marked the beginning of protests lasting more than a year in Rock Hill. Today, there’s a marker in front of the original building the students occupied.

Greensboro, North Carolina

Once a prominent railroad hub, Greensboro remains a vibrant destination by celebrating both the old and the new. Thriving breweries, entertainment venues and a science center showcase what’s new, while the area’s tranquil parks, gardens and history museums pay tribute to the city’s character and past. An important part of this past is the Civil Rights protests originating in Greensboro that echoed throughout the state in 1960, when four Black college students staged a sit-in at the lunch counter of an F.W. Woolworth store. These students are honored at two sites in Greensboro: the February One Monument on the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s campus, and the original Woolworth’s, which is now the International Civil Rights Center and Museum and a top attraction in the city for tours.

Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

Though often packaged together because of their proximity, Raleigh and Durham both have distinct personalities. Raleigh, the hip capital city, offers museums such as the North Carolina Museum of Art and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Travelers can see how the city remembers Civil Rights leaders at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Gardens, a public park providing a tranquil place to celebrate the legacy of King. At Shaw University, Estey Hall is the oldest building on campus and the first in the country constructed for the higher education of Black women. In Durham, a town defined by Duke University, visitors can see beautiful historic landmarks related to the college. To learn about the area’s African American Heritage, they can visit the Hayti Heritage Center, an education center in a building that was once an AME Church.