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Sunday 16 January 2022

From a dark history to a bright tourism future?

The good people of Montgomery, Alabama, are not letting their region's Klu Klux Klan affiliations, links with the slave trade and long history of racism get in the way of attracting tourists.

As recently as 2019 the editor of a small-town Alabama newspaper published an editorial calling for "the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again" against "Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats (who) are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama."

In 2020, Republican politician Will Dismukes was a key figure at a birthday celebration for the late Nathan Bedford Forrest, a leader in the Confederate Army and the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. 

But the people of Montgomery want you to forget the racists in their midst and concentrate, instead, on the city's links with the civil rights movement - which was of course, sparked by ingrained racism. 

Experience Montgomery has unveiled a brand-new global tourism campaign, called ‘The Journey Starts Here,’ in time for Black History Month. And it does look a lovely place. 

The aim of the campaign is to promote visits to the destination and guide visitors through the historic capital city using vibrant storytelling.

"Montgomery’s story as the birthplace of the civil rights movement resonates with the world," says Ashley Jernigan, executive director of Destination Montgomery. 

"With this campaign, education and inspiration have never been more accessible to Montgomery visitors as they can now interact with the sites of some of our country’s most profound events." 

Maybe not the Klan pushing black folk off a bridge though, or the white segregationists who created the White Citizens’ Councils because they did not want to share public transport with black people.

There is a museum and monument to victims of lynchings - but there are still streets named for Confederate generals  

The whitewashing does highlight black empowerment and significant achievements. 

The campaign design uses colours and geometric shapes to highlight the city’s natural and historical landmarks, including the Alabama River, the steps of the Alabama State Capitol building, the Selma-to-Montgomery march routes and sculptures from the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

Place markers can now be found across the city on streetlight banners, light pole signage, and soon, sidewalk stickers that feature quotes from famous civil rights activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bryan Stevenson.

There are QR codes linking to a mobile site with information about the location, suggestions for what to explore next in the area, and suggested visitor itineraries.

As part of the campaign, Montgomery’s Visitor Centre has relocated to One Court Square in the heart of downtown Montgomery, making it easily accessible to some of the city’s most notable sights.

The visitor centre will also be the base of the newly launched City Ambassador Program.

The city ambassadors will wear branded t-shirts and provide meaningful insights to the historical landmarks within walking distance of the visitor centre, including the Rosa Parks Bus Stop and the Freedom Rides Museum.

Situated on the banks of the Alabama River, Montgomery is the capital and the second largest city in  Alabama.

Established in 1819, it has been the site of major events which have shaped the country’s history. Visit the official website of the Montgomery Convention and Visitor Bureau at 


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