Explore Kentucky Sites on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail
Two new Kentucky sites recently added to national trail.
With the recent addition of two new sites, the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville and the SEEK Museum in Russellville, Kentucky now has five unique sites on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail!
The U.S. Civil Rights Trail is a collection of churches, courthouses, schools, museums and other landmarks located primarily in the Southern states where activists challenged segregation and other important issues in the 1950s and 1960s to advance social justice.
We invite you to visit the two newest sites to learn more of Kentucky’s Civil Rights story.
1. The Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville is the only place in the world dedicated to preserving and promoting Ali’s legacy. Visitors to the center will experience interactive and multimedia exhibits and discover Ali’s six core principles: confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect and spirituality. Fueled by these principles, Ali became one of the world’s finest athletes. He also garnered the strength and courage to stand up for what he believed and provided inspiration to millions of people around the world, regardless of ethnicity, religion, culture, gender or age. Located on Museum Row, the center captures the inspiration of Ali’s legendary life, and provides programming and events focused on education, gender equity and global citizenship. The center also has a library and archives on-site and displays temporary exhibits throughout the year. A visit to the multicultural center and award-winning museum isn’t just an experience, it’s a journey into the heart of a champion.
2. About two and a half hours southwest of Louisville is small town Russellville, Kentucky, home of the SEEK Museum (SEEK stands for Struggles of Emancipation and Equality in Kentucky), formerly the West Kentucky African American Heritage Museum, and Alice Allison Dunnigan. Alice Allison Dunnigan, a Logan County native, was a civil rights pioneer whose struggles against racism and sexism are memorialized by a bronze statue and exhibit at the SEEK Museum. Dunnigan became the first African-American woman to be admitted to the White House Congressional and Supreme Court press corps in 1947. As the Washington correspondent for the Associated Negro Press, Dunnigan reported on national affairs with a focus on civil rights. She also served on the President’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and worked for several years to enforce compliance of the Civil Rights Acts. The new statue of Dunnigan is now on display on museum grounds in a new park dedicated to civil rights struggles. The park is adjacent to the Payne-Dunnigan house on East 6th
In addition to the two new sites most recently added to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, Kentucky has three other sites on the national trail: Berea, Simpsonville and Louisville.
3. Founded in 1855 by abolitionists, Berea College in Berea was the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, educating “persons of good character” regardless of race, class or gender. Many prominent African-American leaders and civil rights figures have connections to Berea College, one of whom was Carter G. Woodson (1903) who created “Negro History Week” in 1926, which eventually expanded to become Black History Month.
4. Simpsonville is home to the birthplace of Whitney M. Young, Jr. who dedicated his career to the fight for civil rights and justice. Young successfully transformed the National Urban League into an active and aggressive civil rights organization aimed at fighting for justice. At 40, he became president of the National Urban League and expanded it from 38 employees to 1,600. President Lyndon Johnson honored Young with the Medal of Freedom in 1968.
5. Throughout the early 1960s, Louisville erupted in a series of demonstrations and protests pushing for social change within its structurally segregated communities. In the summer and fall of 1961, activists initiated a voter registration campaign that elected a new mayor and a new board of aldermen, and on May 1, 1963, the public accommodations ordinance was passed. The Louisville Downtown Civil Rights Trail preserves the legacy of those who participated in the demonstrations through the placement of historic markers throughout the downtown area.
Come take a journey through the Bluegrass State to learn about the unforgettable people and places that were integral to the civil rights movement in Kentucky and nation.