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Kentucky sites included in new national civil rights trail

Berea College is one of three Kentucky sites on a new civil rights trail because it was the site of a 20-hour pro-integration sit-in. In this 2006 file photo, students , Stewart Stone, left, Melvin Cowan, center and Caleb Haynes, walk on the campus during finals week.
Berea College is one of three Kentucky sites on a new civil rights trail because it was the site of a 20-hour pro-integration sit-in. In this 2006 file photo, students , Stewart Stone, left, Melvin Cowan, center and Caleb Haynes, walk on the campus during finals week. HERALD-LEADER

Kentucky and 11 other states are debuting a U.S. Civil Rights Trail on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The trail, which includes more than 130 landmarks, will highlight three sites in Kentucky: Berea College, Louisville and the Simpsonville birthplace of civil rights leader Whitney Young.

“It is an honor to have Kentucky’s historic sites included in the U.S. Civil Rights Trail,” said Kristen Branscum, Tourism Commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Tourism. “This trail presents us the unique opportunity to reflect on our history and inspire us as we embark on our path to be a multicultural destination for residents and visitors alike.”

The trail was created after National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis challenged historians two years ago to inventory surviving civil rights landmarks.

Georgia State University found 60, which became the foundation of the trail,” said Lee Sentell, Alabama tourism director. “The 12-state tourism agencies known collectively as TravelSouth USA supplemented the list with other worthy sites.”

Berea College was the site of a 20-hour pro-integration sit-in; in the 1960s, Louisville became known for a city-wide civil rights movement; and Simpsonville’s Young received the Medal of Freedom in 1968 for his work fighting employment discrimination, according to the Kentucky Department of Tourism.

The trail stretches from the Topeka, Kan., schools known for the Brown v. Board of Education case against school segregation in 1954 to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. where thousands rallied in 1963.

The trail is anchored by the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.; Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas; the Greensboro, N.C., Woolworth’s where sit-ins were held; the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis; and King’s birthplace in Atlanta.

Potential visitors can explore the trail online at civilrightstrail.com, beginning Monday, with a 360-degree video of landmarks in Louisville, Memphis and Little Rock.

The trail is expected to draw tourists from around the world; after a briefing in London, several British tour companies have added the civil rights trail to their roster of travel plans, according to Liz Bittner, TravelSouth president.

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