Civil Rights Movement Sites

Photo in the Public Domain.

Civil Rights Movement Sites is part of the Tentative list of United States of America in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

The Civil Rights Movement Sites represent seminal events in the mid-20th century African-American civil rights movement in the United States. The sites chosen highlight the use of non-violent techniques, such as those conducted by Mahatma Gandhi, in the face of persecution to effect social change. The Civil Rights Movement in the United States inspired other civil rights movements around the world, and helped ensure the passage of the United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1965.

Map of Civil Rights Movement Sites

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

Community Reviews

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Kyle Magnuson

California - United States of America - 07-Aug-21 -

Civil Rights Movement Sites (T) by Kyle Magnuson

While touring the 16th Street Baptist Church, the docent shared stories of segregated Birmingham and the challenges of integration. One of the docents was part of the "Children's Crusade" demonstrations which gathered around 16th Street Baptist Church. Under Alabama law, demonstrators who protested racial segregation were arrested. Police dogs, high-pressure firehouses were used to disrupt these protests, which should be noted were often occurring in or around the 'Black Business District'. My spouse, who only recently became a US citizen was astonished by the extent of the racially segregated architecture, town-planning, and landscape design in Birmingham. She is not unfamiliar with American History, but the racially-based system generally is understood at the surface level (restrooms, schools, restaurants, public pools, drinking fountains). In fact, the boundary of the 'Black Business District' in Birmingham abuts the 16th Street Baptist Church. The grid of Black Birmingham is not hard to trace. In January 2017, Barack Obama designated 15th-17th streets a National Monument, which includes the 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, A.G. Gaston Hotel (newly restored), the Masonic Temple, and Bethel Baptist Church (the later component is 3 miles away). Today, the 16th Street Baptist Church is most associated with and known domestically for the KKK domestic terrorist bombing that killed 4 young girls as they put on their choir robes for Sunday School. The church itself looks "fortress-like" and it is a marvel that it withstood 19 sticks of dynamite fully intact. The docents go to great lengths to show a more complete timeline of the churches long history. It's important to note that the church, along with the A. G. Gaston hotel (a notable establishment in Green Book guides), and the Masonic Temple were prominent pillars of the Black community in Birmingham. Indeed, the Masonic Temple was used by Civil Rights Leaders for its size and its perception as "bombproof".

It may be pertinent to the History just discussed to know that Birmingham's population is 70% Black and in the 1960's before the dismantling of law-based segregation it was majority Black then too. This also manifests itself in local politics, the Sheriff and mayor are Black and have been since the 1970's. This perhaps challenges some stereotypes people have of the South. In fact, the majority of police officer involved shootings of Black men or women are actually far less common in Atlanta, Birmingham, and Montgomery (all Black majority cities) compared to other large urban areas (Baltimore, Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, etc.) 

The Monroe Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas has been identified as an additional component to the nomination. As named, the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (managed by the National Park Service), the interpretation, panels, and multimedia are excellent. The park rangers here are collectively phenomenal. Now you might expect that Monroe Elementary School to be a "White Only" school, but in fact it was a school for black children. The next thought visitors (myself included) often have is that the school would be inferior to the nearby "White Only" schools, which is also untrue. Monroe Elementary was virtually identical in size as the "White Only" schools in Topeka, teachers got the same pay, and materials/resources were comparable. Throughout the South you can find numerous examples of the profoundly different quality in "White and Black" schools, including the site in Little Rock. Monroe was specifically chosen for a class action lawsuit because it was the ultimate manifestation of the segregation policy "Separate, but Equal". Segregationists pointed to examples like Monroe as evidence of the equal status afforded citizenry in regards to racial-based infrastructure. If the NAACP could prove with Monroe school that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal" then the whole system would begin to collapse. Ultimately, the Supreme Court sided with the NAACP that even in cases like Monroe Elementary the very act segregation itself, not simply the facilities alone, harmed the child. 

I did not tour Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church (just viewed the exterior). However, I will note a couple important facts. Firstly, the location is only steps from the Alabama State Capitol, which is also referred to as the "First Confederate Capitol". Moreover, the steps of the Capitol were the final location of the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. Confederate Monuments, including statues of Jefferson Davis (President of the Confederacy), and the "First White House of the Confederacy" are located in and around the Capitol Complex (will they survive another decade, I suspect not in their current form). The stark dichotomy of this small brick church within sight of the sparkling white Capitol Complex, which is filled with symbols of the Confederacy? That within itself made the site spatially interesting. One important contextual and often emotional visit that should not be ignored in Montgomery is the Legacy Museum and its associated site "The National Memorial for Peace and Justice" (free shuttle service is available). 

If you are visiting Selma from Montgomery, you will be driving on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Just after crossing the bridge there is a small interpretive center and a couple blocks more is the Brown Chapel AME Church, which played a pivotal role much like other Historic Churches included in the nomination. Every March, commemorations occur to mark the anniversary of "Bloody Sunday". If possible this would be a particularly special time to visit. View this video of the 50th Selma Bridge Crossing Anniversary.

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park (managed by the national park service) in Atlanta is quite large, but was partially closed because of COVID restrictions when I visited. This site, which has been identified as a component may align with the boundary of the National Historical Park or it may only include Ebenezer Baptist Church. The greater property includes the burial place and childhood home of MLK. Other Human Rights Activists are celebrated throughout the park. Dr. King Sr. was a pastor at Ebenezer and Dr. King Jr. was co-pastor with his father from 1960 to his assassination in 1968.

Many of you know the Lincoln Memorial as one of the common visitor highlights of Washington D.C. As the location of major speeches (MLK was one of ten speakers) given by major Civil Rights Icons during the March on Washington in 1963, it has been proposed for inclusion. There is a plaque on the location where MLK stood when delivering the "I Have a Dream" speech. The symbolism of the Lincoln Memorial in the background on the one hundred year anniversary of the "Emancipation Proclamation" was intentional and plans began in earnest starting in 1961. For those interested, read/listen to the speech "The Problem of Silence" by Rabbi Joachim Prinz (who spoke just before MLK). These eloquent words demonstrate how the Civil Rights Movement was not exclusively a black movement, it was a freedom movement.

As the most expensive high school ever built in the United States until that point (1927), Little Rock Central High School is monumental. The visitor center includes exhibits and information about school integration at this "White-only" school campus following the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Across the street from the visitor center is the preserved 1950's Mobile gas station, which served as a temporary media headquarters when Little Rock found itself on the national and international news in 1957. The commemorative garden is meant to memorialize and honor the "Little Rock Nine". I found myself envisioning the mass hysteria that converged on this campus in residential Little Rock, Arkansas as I walked the grounds. Since this is an active school campus you cannot enter the facility. 

The National Civil Rights Museum like the Legacy Museum in Montgomery is superb, honest, and deeply moving. Located at The Lorraine Motel, the museum is organized to tell the collective story of a nation failing to live up to the ideals written in its founding documents (despite flaws inherent within). Through engaging panels, exhibits (including numerous artifacts) the museum documents the struggle of Black Americans (and other people of conscience) to push the country forward. The video presentation is particularly well-done. This History collides from museum to historic site when you suddenly find yourself on the 2nd floor of the museum at Room 306 and Room 307, the hotel room of Martin Luther King Jr and his colleagues. and the location (balcony) of where he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The museum was busy and the exhibits continue across the street at the boarding house location (legacy building) of where the gunman fired from a bathroom window. During a return visit in January 2024, the later museum was closed as large-scale construction and renovation occurred which will be completed in 2025.

In regards to world heritage prospects, this will be a highly complex nomination and it has been continuing to evolve over time. Currently, sites in 8 states and the District of Columbia are identified as the most appropriate components. There are inherent controversies, some of which have been discussed here. The reality of racial discrimination, anti-blackness, and racial bias in the United States is one that has proven durable and remains visible to this day. Reflecting on a few essential questions in our national (messy) public discourse over the past few years: How much of the "infrastructure" of White Supremacy has been truly dismantled? How successful was the Civil Rights Movement when so many black leaders were murdered? How has the "Black Panther" organization as another participant of the freedom struggle been demonized and redeemed over recent decades? Therefore, for some it may be problematic to designate a world heritage site that's OUV is directly tied to the dismantling of white supremacist infrastructure as practiced during Jim Crow Segregation. One thing remains constant in the United States, as a nation that will become majority non-white between 2040 and 2050, the United States as the world's most prominent example of a multi-racial Democracy continues to change and evolve. My spouse, who was initially skeptical of a "Civil Rights Movement" world heritage site emerged more supportive after specifically visiting the 16th Street Baptist Church, the Legacy Museum and Memorial in Montgomery, and the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. Part of her perspective (as she explained) was that more people should know this History, particularly Americans. Often the nuance and complexity of the movement has been lost. In addition, she and I emerged with a stronger understanding of the coalition of people who made the Civil Rights Movement a freedom struggle that welcomed all people of conscience around the World.

Components Visited:

  • Martin Luther King National Historical Park [Ebenezer Baptist Church]
  • Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument [16th Street Baptist Church]
  • National Historic Trail Selma To Montgomery [Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church]
  • National Mall and Memorial Parks [The Lincoln Memorial] *visited twice
  • National Historic Trail Selma To Montgomery [Edmund Pettus Bridge]
  • Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park [Monroe School] 
  • Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
  • National Civil Rights Museum [The Lorraine Motel] *visited twice

Read more from Kyle Magnuson here.

Michael Novins

United States - 12-Mar-16 -

Civil Rights Movement Sites (T) by Michael Novins

In October 2011, after a business trip to Atlanta, GA, I drove to Alabama and visited Birmingham, including the 16th Street Baptist Church and Bethel Baptist Church, which are included in the Civil Rights Movement Sites on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I also visited Rickwood Field, built in 1910 and the oldest surviving professional baseball park in the United States, and Sloss Furnaces, which operated as a pig iron-producing blast furnace from 1882 to 1971 ( After lunch at Irondale Cafe, opened in 1926 (, I attended the Talladega 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Full Name
Civil Rights Movement Sites
United States of America
Nominated for
Structure - Memorials and Monuments
2019 Upstream Process

2008 Added to Tentative List

The site has 13 locations

Civil Rights Movement Sites: Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church (T)
Civil Rights Movement Sites: Lincoln Memorial (T)
Civil Rights Movement Sites: Ebenezer Baptist Church Atlanta (T)
Civil Rights Movement Sites: Bethel Baptist Church (T)
Civil Rights Movement Sites: 16th Street Baptist Church (T)
Civil Rights Movement Sites: Lorraine Motel (T)
Civil Rights Movement Sites: Edmund Pettus Bridge (T)
Civil Rights Movement Sites: Medgar and Myrlie Evers House (T)
Civil Rights Movement Sites: Greyhound Bus Terminal Anniston (T)
Civil Rights Movement Sites: F. W. Woolworth Store Greensboro (T)
Civil Rights Movement Sites: Moton High School (T)
Civil Rights Movement Sites: Monroe Elementary School (T)
Civil Rights Movement Sites: Central High School (T)
WHS 1997-2024