Walk in the steps of a great leader

February is Black History Month, a time to remember important people and events in history. It’s the history of a nation delayed from realizing a great deal of it’s potential through callous bigotry. It’s people like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr who made a difference and were a driving force in a movement that would finally bring change.

This year, lonely planet has an idea for something meaningful we can do to honor the past, celebrate today and look forward to an even better tomorrow.

Lonely Planet is offering a free PDF itinerary called “Tracing Martin Luther King, Jr.,” which outlines a trip across America’s south, following the civil rights leader’s road from Atlanta to that fateful date in Memphis.

It’s a distance of 600 miles over 3 or 4 days and the best time to go is between March and May.

On April 4, 1968, a true American hero was silenced in Memphis, Tennessee. But the words and life of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr will forever remain in the public consciousness as the soundtrack to civil rights. This eye-opening journey traces his revolutionary footsteps, starting in Atlanta and continuing on to Memphis, stopping in Jackson, Mississippi and Montgomery, Alabama to see a house where King once lived which is now a museum.

An included narrative adds a surreal element of detail not normally touched on by contemporary sources.

“The next day, while standing on the balcony outside room 306 at the Lorraine Motel on the south end of downtown Memphis, a shot rang out that took off half of MLK, Jr’s neck and jaw. He collapsed, one foot hanging off the railing, and died. Two months later, James Earl Ray was captured at London’s Heathrow Airport (on the same day that Senator Robert Kennedy, who was also assassinated, was laid to rest)…”

Even just reading through the well-written .pdf file brings back vivid memories for those alive at the time and a reason to be thankful for all the work done for those who were not.

Black History Month is celebrated in the United States and Canada in February and in the United Kingdom in October.

Five famous fathers: Visit where they lived with their children

For a Father’s Day nod to famous fathers, it seemed apropos to do a post on Father’s Day travel with a twist. Read a biography of famous men and it may take more than a few paragraphs to get to their children. The children seem tucked in between those details that made a man famous. Regardless how much or how little press is given to the offspring, there are landmarks where these men lived with the people who helped keep their legacies alive.

Although these are the sites we head to to find out about what made these men tick as contributors to the rest of us, they are also the places that children called home, and where the men who might have tucked them in at night were called “Dad” (or “Papa,” or “Father” or “Pops” or some other variation) by those people whose tiny hands they once held in their own.

Here are five men through history who have had an influence on the world and where you can visit where they lived with their children. From humble houses to elaborate palaces, here are five places where you can imagine the varied conversations that happened within the walls–the type that only fathers and children share.

1. Henry VIII (Religion)–Hampton Court Palace, London. This Tudor palace is where King Henry 8th of England, with a penchant for beheading his wives, lived the most. It’s a gorgeous piece of architecture with a fascinating history and a remarkable maze in the garden. Henry’s three children used this palace as a haven after they became adults as well. Son Edward was christened in the chapel and Mary spent her honeymoon here. Henry died when Edward was nine. The two daughters were older. Henry’s desire to divorce his wives led to the England’s shift away from Roman Catholicism.

2. Abraham Lincoln (Politics)–Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Springfield, Illinois. This is a hallmark year to visit the house where Lincoln lived with his family prior to becoming president. Take a guided walk in the neighborhood where Lincoln took strolls, probably with sons Robert, Willie and Tad (son Edward died.) Lincoln brought the North and South back together.

3. Claude Monet (Art)–Monet’s House and Gardens, Giverny, France. Monet moved to this lovely farm with his family and lived here for 43 years. Here he painted is famous works connected to Impressionism and provided a haven of art and creativity for his brood made up of eight children. When you look at Monet’s studio where he painted, inspired by the garden on the property, imagine what his children saw and how the smell of paint and flowers were prominent in their lives.

4. Martin Luther King Jr.(Civil Rights)–Dexter Parsonage Museum, Montgomery, Alabama. Visit the house where Martin Luther King Jr. lived where he was a young pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist church. This is where he was living with his four children and wife when someone threw a bomb onto the porch. You can still see the damage. No one was hurt. The house looks as if the King family just stepped outside for a moment. It’s a step back in time for sure. King’s message of equality provides hope and drive to those who are struggling for equal rights. If it wasn’t for him, and those who rallied behind his words, where would we be?

5. Elvis Presley (Music and Popular Culture) Memphis, Tennessee–Graceland. No matter what a person thinks of the over-the-top decor of Graceland, it’s the place where Elvis felt at home and he lived with his wife Priscilla and daughter, Lisa Marie until Priscilla moved out, taking Lisa Marie with her. Still, this is the home where Lisa Marie can still go to remember her dad who made a big time impact on popular culture and music. The photo is of Lisa Marie’s swing set in the back yard.

Charlton Heston movie trivia and travel

When I read that Charlton Heston died last night, an image of him parting the Red Sea as Moses crossed my mind. “The Ten Commandments” was on TV just two weeks ago. While channel flipping, I came across it and he was just getting ready to hold up that staff. According to the New York Times article, the scene where he came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandment tablets was filmed at Mount Sinai.

Planet of the Apes” has several locations you can also go to and might recognize if you watch the movie. The scene with the top of the Statue of Liberty resting in the sand was filmed in a cove near Point Dume at Zuma in Malibu. The rest of the desert scenes were filmed around Lake Powell (where the spaceship crashed and the crew went to land), Glen Canyon and Page, Utah. I’ve driven through these places and they are gorgeous. I can imagine back in the 60s they were less traveled than today. Malibu Creek State Park was where the ape village was built. Fox Studios use to own the property. Here’s Charlton Heston’s World, a Web site I came across that has several “Planet of the Apes” photos and audio clips.

Other trivia. If you head to Rome, you’ll be near where the chariot race in “Ben-Hur “was filmed at Cinecittà Studios and the Sistine Chapel where Heston played Michaelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy.

As an interesting aside, not movie related, Charlton Heston was involved in the Civil Rights March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr. With Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination 40 years-ago, just the day before yesterday, and Heston’s death the day after, that struck me. I don’t know why. It just did.

World Heritage Site new “Tentative List”: Places to Love: Civil Rights Movement Sites

For the Gadling series “World Heritage Site new “Tentative List”: Places to Love” we are covering the 14 sites that have been submitted for possible inclusion as an official World Heritage Site in the United States. The sites will not be posted in order of importance or in the order they appear on the list.

Number 1

Name of site: Civil Rights Movement Sites

Location: Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama.

Reason for importance (in a nutshell): Three churches, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery and the Bethel Baptist and 16th Street Baptist Churches in Birmingham, all historically African-American, played significant roles during the Civil Rights Movement.

Jamie’s Take: Of all the places on the new Tentative Sites list, these are perhaps the most humble and each hold enormous significance to American history. During Black History month, this is a fitting time to pay tribute. Here’s why:

Picture Martin Luther King Jr. standing at the simple pulpit of what was then called Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. From 1954 to1960, he was the pastor of this church, preaching his message that pulled people into a movement that changed history. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was organized from here. The church today looks similar to what it did back then–even the pulpit is still there.

In Birmingham on September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church. Hatred killed four girls while they were putting on their choir robes. Members of the Klu Klux Klan were responsible. The bombing played a large role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The church, in the heart of the Civil Rights District of Birmingham, still operates as a church today. In 1873, when it was founded, it was the first African American church to in Birmingham.

From 1956-1961, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) was headquartered at the Bethel Baptist Church. The early Civil Rights movement efforts were organized here, including the Freedom Ride bus trip that helped lead to the desegregation of bus transportation. This church was bombed several times and is now a National Historic Landmark.

Martin Luther King Jr.: The house where he lived in Montgomery is a museum

Two Decembers ago, we left Columbus, Ohio for Montgomery, Alabama to visit a friend of ours and travel a bit on the Civil Rights Trail. This is a trip, I think, people should make if they get the chance. You can get to Montgomery from anywhere, and our friend doesn’t still live there, but Montgomery is a wonderful city for a weekend trip with sites that are family friendly, well worth a stop, and enough sweet tea that you can float away. One day I’ll put together a longer feature with suggestions on how to organize your trip and what to do, but for this post, here’s a plug for my most favorite place that I think of often.

At 309 South Jackson Street is one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s former homes. He lived here with his family from 1954 to 1960 during the time he was organized the bus boycott and was preaching at the Dexter Ave. Baptist church. The house, the church’s former parsonage, is now The Dexter Parsonage Museum, a place that looks frozen in time. Besides being able to see the porch damaged when someone tried to kill King with a bomb, but to no avail, the house looks like the family could have just stepped out while you’re passing through for the hour or so tour.

For a walk through of late 50s, early 60s home decor, this is it. The kitchen was my favorite room since it’s set up with household products typical of the time.

One of the wonderful qualities of the museum is the woman who curates it. She went to King’s church as a child and has memories of him placing his hand on her head. Her story, how she came back to Alabama to her hometown after years away, is an important story of American history as well.

This museum is a place with heart and soul, and I think should be on the list of must see places important to American history, even though, as historical houses go, it’s not that old. If you go, you need to arrange a tour. Here’s the link. This link also has a picture of the kitchen.

The picture here is the only one I found with permission to use. The story behind it is funny. According to the description, this is a group of kids who came to visit on a field trip. They went up to the door, turned the knob and an alarm went off. Yep, this is a lesson in calling ahead. Oregonian, who posted this on Flickr, has other shots of the group’s civil rights tour. Thanks to Oregonian for sharing.