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11 BEAUTIFUL Alabama National Parks (Helpful Tips + Photos)

Interested in visiting Alabama National Parks? Amazing historic sites, incredible monuments, iconic parks, scenic trails, and more.

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We're giving you 11+ reasons to make Alabama your next vacation destination | Alabama National Parks
We’ll give you 11+ reasons why you’ll want to make Alabama your next vacation destination | Alabama National Parks

Alabama National Parks

Alabama National Parks! We’ve got 11+ incredible national park sites for you to see on your next visit to the Heart of Dixie.

Alabama National Parks include amazing historic sites, incredible monuments, iconic parks, scenic trails, and more.

Alabama has many national park sites, but it doesn’t actually have any congressionally designated “National Parks.” Nonetheless, there’s a whole host of amazing Alabama National Park Service sites to visit.

We’re going to give you 11+ reasons why you’ll want to make Alabama your next vacation destination.

Alabama National Parks Table Of Contents

  1. Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
  2. Freedom Riders National Monument
  3. Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
  4. Little River Canyon National Reserve
  5. Natchez Trace Parkway
  6. Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
  7. Russell Cave National Monument
  8. Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail
  9. Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail
  10. Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
  11. Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

The Alabama National Park Sites

1. Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument | Alabama National Parks

Kelly Ingram Park | Alabama National Parks
Statue of three attack dogs, in Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham, Alabama | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

W.E.B. Du Bois was an influential African American civil rights activist during the early 20th century who co-founded the NAACP. He wrote The Souls of Black Folk & Black Reconstruction In America.

In the second work, Du Bois said, “The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery.”

The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line—the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea.”

-W.E.B. DuBois

Come to Alabama and visit the incredible historic sites which commemorate our nation’s long march towards freedom. When you visit these places and imagine the struggles of the people who risked so much for the rights we take for granted it gives you a real understanding of their heroism.

You’ll truly appreciate the words and the courage demonstrated by thousands of African-Americans in the 1950s and 1960s who battled segregation in American society.

The Struggle For Civil Rights

Images from the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument | Alabama National Parks
The struggle for Civil Rights is captured in images and words at the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument | Courtesy of the National Park Service

The dramatic images of violent aggression against civil rights protesters in Birmingham, Alabama were vivid examples of segregation and racial injustice in America.

The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument examines the struggle for racial equality. It encompasses roughly four city blocks in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. The National Monument includes the A.G. Gaston Motel, which served as the headquarters for the Birmingham campaign.

It was here from April through May of 1963 that the leaders of the civil rights movement, including Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., made the critical decisions about their non-violent campaign to overturn Birmingham’s segregation laws and practices.

Important Landmarks Worth Visiting

Sculpture of policeman and dog attacking civil rights foot soldier in Kelly Ingram Park | Alabama National Parks
This sculpture represents the police violence toward peaceful protesters during the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement. The sculpture stands in Kelly Ingram Park, where much of the violence took place. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

Other landmarks worth seeing include:

  1. The 16th Street Baptist Church target of September 1963 bombing that killed four young girls who were preparing for Sunday school. 
  2. Kelly Ingram Park where protesters, including many children, were violently disrupted by police dogs and powerful water cannons. Images of the brutal police response to peaceful protesters spread across the country through the news media, shocking the conscience of the nation and the world.
  3. The 4th Avenue Historic District sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was the retail and entertainment center for black-owned businesses serving African American customers during Birmingham’s extended period of forced segregation.
  4. Bethel Baptist Church, located six miles north of the city center, was the headquarters of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights and was bombed three times – in 1956, 1958 and 1962. (Source: NPS)

RELATED: 7 (EPIC) Arkansas National Parks For Your Visit To The Diamond State

2. Freedom Riders National Monument | Alabama National Parks

A mob of racists beats Freedom Riders in Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.A. This picture was reclaimed by the FBI from a local journalist who also was beaten and whose camera was smashed. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Freedom Riders were among the first of more than 400 volunteers who traveled throughout the South on regularly scheduled buses for seven months in 1961. Their mission was to test a 1960 Supreme Court decision that declared segregated facilities for interstate passengers illegal.

The Freedom Riders were organized and led by the Congress of Racial Equality’s (Core) Executive Director James Farmer.  

A dozen activists were paired into two interracial sets of Freedom Riders. They traveled on Greyhound and Trailways buses, respectively, from Washington D.C. to New Orleans, LA.  

Met By A Mob In Anniston, Alabama

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Freedom Riders journey proceeded without incident until they reached Anniston, Alabama. There they were met by an angry mob whose members threw rocks and slashed the bus’s tires.  The white supremacists then firebombed the vehicle.

A different group of the Freedom Riders traveled to Montgomery, Alabama, where another angry mob of men, women and children carrying baseball bats, tire irons and bricks met them at the terminal. They attacked Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activists John Lewis and Jim Zwerg who both sustained severe injuries.

“Take a long, hard look down the road you will have to travel once you have made a commitment to work for change.

Know that this transformation will not happen right away. Change often takes time. It rarely happens all at once.

In the movement, we didn’t know how history would play itself out. When we were getting arrested and waiting in jail or standing in unmovable lines on the courthouse steps, we didn’t know what would happen, but we knew it had to happen.”

— John Lewis on protesting in Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change 

Explore Freedom Riders National Monument

Freedom Riders National Monument | Alabama National Parks
Bus Mural at the Freedom Riders National Monument | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Freedom Riders National Monument includes the former Greyhound Bus Station located at 1031 Gurnee Avenue. It also includes the place where the bus was firebombed.

It’s about six miles outside of the town on State Route 202, two sites where the Freedom Riders were attacked by segregationist mobs.

RELATED: 10+ AMAZING Georgia National Parks-Everything To Know

3. Horseshoe Bend National Military Park

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park | Alabama National Parks
Courtesy of the National Park Service

A different history awaits you at Horseshow Bend. The Battle of Horseshoe Bend was the final battle of the Creek War. It’s where General Andrew Jackson’s Tennessee militia won a decisive victory against the Upper Creek Red Stick Nation.

Over 800 Upper Creeks died defending their homeland which was the largest loss of life for Native Americans in a single battle in the history of United States.

Things To Do At Horseshoe Bend

two kids hiking through forest on nature trail
A local Boy Scout group hiking on the park’s nature trail | Courtesy of the NPS

Like a good commander surveying his battlefield, I always like to gather some intelligence and derive a battleplan before I go forth to have some adventures.

There is a visitors center at Horseshoe Bend where you can gather all of the information that you will need as well as learn about the history behind the park.

Horseshoe Bend | Outdoor Activities

Horseshow Bend | Alabama National Parks
There’s no shortage of outdoor activities at Horseshoe Bend | Alabama National Parks

Outdoor activities at Horseshoe Bend include:

  1. Take a driving tour of the battlefield on the Tour Road. It’s 3 miles long and includes a one-way loop and skirts the edge of the battlefield and winds along the bend of the Tallapoosa River for which the park is named.
  2. Hike the 2.8 mile long nature trail winds its way around the Battlefield and near Tohopeka Village, the site of a Creek Indian camp in the early 1800s. 
  3. Picnic at one of Horseshoe Bend’s two picnic areas. The larger is located near the Visitor Center and includes two covered shelters.
  4. You can bring your boat and launch it at the Miller Bridge Boat Ramp to explore the winding Tallapoosa River. 
  5. Fishing is allowed at the Miller Bridge Boat Ramp.
  6. Bicycling is permitted on the 3 mile paved Tour Road.
  7. The park is part of the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail where there are great opportunities to see a number of bird species throughout the year, especially during migration periods.

RELATED: 6 (EPIC) Kentucky National Parks For Your Visit to the Bluegrass State

4. Little River Canyon National Reserve | Alabama National Parks

Little River Canyon National Reserve | Alabama National Parks
Little River Canyon National Reserve | Courtesy of NPS

Each state is blessed with its own geologic wonders and Alabama is no exception. Little River Canyon is such a wonder. It’s one of the most spectacular landforms in this region.

The canyon is carved into the flat top of Lookout Mountain. It reaches depths in excess of 600 feet in some sections. It is one of the deepest canyon systems east of the Mississippi River and the deepest in the state of Alabama.

RELATED: 5 (EPIC) Louisiana National Parks For Your Next Trip To The Pelican State

If you love to see plant species then Little River Canyon National Reserve does not disappoint. It’s home to an unusually diverse set of plant and animal species due to its location at the confluence of the Cumberland Plateau and Gulf Coastal Plain physiographic regions. It also features a number of different microhabitats created by the rugged physical features of the canyon. 

Outdoor activities include: swimming, fishing, climbing, and world-class whitewater paddling. Or if you just want to marvel at the magnificent scenery you will find scenic drives connecting a series of overlooks that offer magnificent views into the canyon.

RELATED: 9 [EPIC] Mississippi National Parks For Your Next Dixie Trip (Expert Guide)

5. Natchez Trace Parkway | Alabama National Parks

Natchez Trace Parkway | Alabama National Parks
One of the many creeks that run along the Natchez Trace Parkway | Courtesy of the NPS

America is a nation of majestic parkways where nature truly comes to life. One such parkway is the Natchez Trace. It’s a 444-mile recreational road and scenic drive through three states.

The parkway follows the “Old Natchez Trace” a historic travel corridor used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” European settlers, slave traders, soldiers, and future presidents.

Today, you can enjoy a scenic drive and much more including biking, camping, hiking, and horseback riding along the parkway. With over 90 sites along the Natchez Trace, there’s no shortage of things to do.

Things To Do On The Natchez Trace Parkway

Alabama Music Hall of Fame | Alabama National Parks
Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia, Alabama | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Natchez Trace Parkway winds through nearly 450 miles of protected land, from Nashville, Tennessee, through Alabama and on to Natchez, Mississippi. Along the way there’s wonderful wildlife, gorgeous waterfalls, memorable hikes and historic sites, some dating back thousands of years.

I’ve got some great recommendations for places to stop while in Alabama. Let’s begin in Tuscumbia, Alabama, with the Alabama Music Hall of Fame where you can see the vast memorabilia from the lives and careers of more than 1,000 stars, representing all styles of America’s music.

Just outside Tuscumbia in Colbert County, is the Belle Mont Mansion. It’s one of a few Palladian-style houses in the Deep South. This style stems from the neoclassical architectural design of Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio.

Helen Keller Home, Gardens & Museum

President John F. Kennedy meets with Helen Keller in the Oval Office, White House, Washington, D.C. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Also in Tuscumbia is the Helen Keller Home, Gardens & Museum. Original furnishings of the Keller family decorate the home and museum, highlighted by hundreds of Helen Keller’s personal mementos, books, and gifts from her lifetime of travel and lectures for the betterment of the world’s blind and deaf-blind.

In the Little Mountain region of southern Colbert County you’ll find the Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve. It’s a 700-acre, privately owned, scenic, natural area that’s worth seeing and exploring.

And how about an old-fashioned saloon, with swinging doors, a large porch that hosts live music and hitching post. Built into a massive rock outcropping. Check out the Rattlesnake Saloon & Seven Springs Lodge also located in Tuscumbia.

RELATED: 12 (EPIC) North Carolina National Parks For Your Visit To The Tar Heel State

6. Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail | Alabama National Parks

Natchez Trace Scenic Trail | Alabama National Parks
The Natchez Trace Scenic Trail | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

You get one story driving along a parkway and a different story walking along a trail. The Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail includes five sections of hiking trail which parallel the 444-mile long Natchez Trace Parkway scenic motor road. 

The scenic foot trails total more than 60 miles. They offer opportunities not afforded along the parkway to explore wetlands, swamps, hardwood forest, rock outcroppings, overlooks, and more.

Places To Go Along The Natchez Trail

Freedom Hills Overlook | Alabama National Parks
The Natchez Trace Parkway near Freedom Hills Overlook | Courtesy of the National Park Service

There are some truly wonderful places to explore along the Natchez Trail in Alabama. They include:

  1. Freedom Hills Overlook: It’s located at milepost 317.0. There are two benches where visitors can stop and rest before continuing on up the hill.
  2. Bear Creek is located at milepost 313.0. It includes a shady picnic area with several picnic tables and grills. It’s adjacent to Bear Creek near the Alabama-Mississippi state line.

RELATED: 8 (EPIC) South Carolina National Parks For Your Visit To The Palmetto State

7. Russell Cave National Monument | Alabama National Parks

Russell Cave National Monument | Alabama National Parks
The Russell Cave National Monument in Bridgeport, AL. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

In Alabama, you can go from the great outdoors to the great indoors. While it’s not the Batcave, Russell Cave is an archeological site with one of the most complete records of prehistoric cultures in the Southeast. 

In the 1950s, archeologists uncovered a large quantity of artifacts representing over 10,000 years of use in a single place.  Today, Russell Cave National Monument helps bring to light many cultural developments of phenomenal human journeys. (Source: NPS)

Not everything, however, is indoors. There’s also a 1.2-mile hiking trail. It will take you straight up the mountain and back down on an old asphalt loop.  Remember to bring your hiking shoes, bug spray, water if you’re planning to make the hike.

8. Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail | Alabama National Parks

Participants, some carrying American flags, marching in the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965 | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I’m a retired history teacher. One of the best parts about retirement is now I have the time to jump into my car and visit the places I spent so much time talking about for so many years.

On 25 March 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. led thousands of nonviolent demonstrators to the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, after a 5-day, 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama.

Those brave marchers had already made history on March 7, 1965. The day would come to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” On that day, 25-year-old activist John Lewis led over 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, and into the history pages.

“Their Cause Must Be Our Cause Too”

President Lyndon Johnson meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr. at the White House | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

State and local lawmen attacked them with clubs and tear gas and drove them back into Selma. John Lewis suffered a skull fracture. Lewis was one of fifty-eight people treated for injuries at the local hospital.  Television coverage of “Bloody Sunday,” triggered national outrage.

On 15th, March President Lyndon Johnson addressed Congress, identifying himself with the demonstrators in Selma in a televised address: “Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”

Lewis: I was hit on my head right here.

Hall: What were you hit with?

Lewis: I was hit with a billy club, and I saw the State Trooper that hit me.

Hall: How many times were you hit?

Lewis: I was hit twice, once when I was lying down and was attempting to get up.

Hall: Do we understand you to say were hit . . . and then attempted to get up

and were hit—and was hit again.

Lewis: Right.

—From John Lewis’s testimony on behalf of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

The Marchers Kept Marching Towards Montgomery

Top left: Alabama police attack Selma to Montgomery marchers, known as “Bloody Sunday,” in 1965
Top right: Marchers carrying banner “We march with Selma!” on street in Harlem, New York City, New York in 1965
Bottom left: Participants in the Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama during 1965 Bottom right: Dr. Martin Luther King, Dr. Ralph David Abernathy, their families, and others leading the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965 (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The day after Johnson’s speech, Selma demonstrators submitted a detailed march plan to Judge Johnson. He approved the demonstration and enjoined Alabama’s Governor George Wallace and local law enforcement from harassing or threatening marchers.

Twenty five thousand demonstrators joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. It was there that he said, “The end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.” 

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Retrace The Footsteps Of Progress Along The Selma To Montgomery Trail

Kamala Harris and John Lewis at 55th March | Courtesy of the Office of Kamala Harris

Visitors are encouraged to drive the same route taken by Dr. King and thousands of his followers. Along the way, stop off at the Selma Interpretive Center serves as the Welcome Center to the trail located at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The Interpretive Center offers an interpretive exhibit and bookstore.

Other points of historical interest while in Selma include: Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, First Baptist Church, George Washington Carver Homes and wayside exhibits.

You can also visit the National Voting Rights Museum & Park (privately owned), Slavery & Civil War Museum, Old Depot Museum, Smitherman Museum and, of course, the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Once you get to Montgomery, there’s the Rosa Parks Museum, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Alabama State Capitol and the Southern Law Poverty Center.  So much history, so many amazing places. So, what are you waiting for?

RELATED: 30+ Best National Parks Books (Great Gifts For Parks Lovers)

9. Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail

The Trail of Tears map shows one of the most shameful episodes of American history, today preserved as the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail | Courtesy of the National Park Service

As a former history teacher, I believe no study of American history is complete without an understanding of the Trail of Tears. This history lesson begins in 1830. It was in that year that Congress passed the Indian Removal Act.

This infamous piece of legislation forced various Native American tribes to relinquish their lands in exchange for federal territory.

The Trail Of Tears

photo, archive, archival-1023416.jpg
In 1838, the Cherokee people were forcibly taken from their homes,  incarcerated in stockades, forced to walk more than a thousand miles, and removed to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. More than 4,000 died and many are buried in unmarked graves along “The Trail Where They Cried.” (Source: Museum of the Cherokee Indian)

As the National Park Service reports, “U.S. Army troops, along with various state militia, moved into the tribe’s homelands and forcibly evicted more than 16,000 Cherokee Indian people from their homelands in Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Georgia.”

“The impact of the resulting Cherokee “Trail of Tears” was devastating. More than a thousand Cherokee – particularly the old, the young, and the infirm – died during their trip west, hundreds more deserted from the detachments, and an unknown number – perhaps several thousand – perished from the consequences of the forced migration. (Source: National Park Service)

“I could not but think that some fearful retribution would come upon us. The scene seemed to me like a distempered dream, or something worthy of the dark ages rather than a present reality.”

-Lieutenant John W. Phelps, who assisted with the removal

The Trail Of Tears Today

Trail of Tears | Alabama National Parks
Hikers retrace the Trail of Tears | Courtesy of the National Park Service

This incredible trail stretches 5,043 miles across nine states. You can follow the trail on foot, by vehicle, over water, by bicycle or by horse. Along the way, you will see sacred sites which tell the story of death and suffering as well as survival.

While in Alabama, you can check out the following Trail of Tears sites:

  1. Andrew Ross Home in Payne, AL.
  2. Fort Payne Cabin Site in Payne, AL.
  3. Tuscumbia Landing in Sheffield, AL.
  4. Waterloo Landing in Waterloo, AL.
  5. Willstown Mission Cemetery in Payne, AL.
  6. Guntersville Dam/Guntersville Lake in Guntersville, AL.
  7. Joe Wheeler Dam/Wheeler Lake in Creek, AL.
  8. Redstone Arsenal (US Army) in Huntsville, AL.
  9. Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Decatur, AL.
  10. Lake Guntersville State Park in Guntersville, AL.
  11. Little River Canyon National Preserve, Fort Payne, AL.
  12. Russell Cave National Monument in Bridgeport, AL.

10. Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site | Alabama National Parks

P-51 Mustang in Museum – Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site – Tuskegee, Alabama | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Jackie Robinson proved that there was nothing a white man could do in the major leagues that a black man couldn’t Most people know his story.

What most people don’t know, however, is the story of an extraordinary group of African American pilots who proved there’s nothing they couldn’t do in defense of their country as well or better than their white counterparts.

African Americans had to fight the prejudices of their fellow countrymen before they could take up arms against the enemies of America.

It was a Howard University student who initially lodged a lawsuit in protest. His efforts in conjunction with mounting pressure from the black press and the NAACP persuaded President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor to give African Americans the opportunity to fly combat missions in World War Two.

It Began In Tuskegee, Alabama

The Tuskegee Airmen
The Tuskegee Airmen | Courtesy of Military.com

Initially, Tuskegee produced twelve cadets and one officer, Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Davis went on to become the Air Force’s first African American general.

These men and their commander formed the 99th Pursuit Squadron.

The 99th fought with in the Mediterranean Theater. Three new Tuskegee squadrons joined them to form the 332nd Fighter Group. The 332nd distinguished itself in Italy, flying combat missions and escorting bombers.

Just how good were they? These pilots shot down 409 German aircraft, destroyed 950 units of ground transportation and sank a destroyer with machine guns alone — a unique accomplishment.

Their most distinctive achievement, however, was that not one friendly bomber was lost to enemy aircraft during their 2000 escort missions. No other fighter group a comparable number of missions can make the same claim.

“The Tuskegee story is an important civil rights story of Americans who happen to be black, in service to their country, their family, and to their friends — in that order.”

– Col. Charles E. McGee, National President of the Tuskegee Airmen

Discover One Of Our Nation’s Proudest Chapters At The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

Col. Benjamin O. Davis (left), commanding officer of the 332nd Fighter Group, and Edward C. Gleed, group operations officer, stand in front of a plane in Ramitelli, Italy, in March 1945.
Col. Benjamin O. Davis (left), commanding officer of the 332nd Fighter Group, and Edward C. Gleed, group operations officer, stand in front of a plane in Ramitelli, Italy, in March 1945. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

When you arrive at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Tuskegee, Alabama, you should begin your visit by watching the 28-minute film which recounts the story of the first African American military aviators in the U.S. Armed Forces.

After seeing the film tour the outside grounds, visit the museum inside hangars 1 & 2, explore the park store and soak up what is an incredibly moving experience.

These men are heroes in every sense of the word. Anyone who has the opportunity should travel to the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Fascinating Facts About The Tuskegee Airmen

Tuskegee Airmen Marcellus G. Smith (left) and Roscoe C. Brown work on a plane nicknamed Tootsie in Ramitelli, Italy, in March 1945. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)
  1. No one actually called them the Tuskegee Airmen during World War Two. This name was coined by author Charles E. Francis in the title of his 1955 book, The Tuskegee Airmen.
  2. Eleanor Roosevelt visited Tuskegee At her request, Charles A. Anderson, a pilot known as “the father of Black aviation, took her on an aerial tour The resulting news photograph of Roosevelt and Anderson showed the world that Black Americans were fit to fly aircraft.
  3. The first three African American generals in the U.S. Air Force were Tuskegee Airmen. They were Benjamin O. Davis, Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr. and Lucius Theus.
  4. In 2007, the Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. This is the highest civilian award bestowed by the United States Congress. It was given to the airmen, including military and civilian support staff, for their “unique military record that inspired revolutionary reform in the armed forces.”

More Than Just Parks Visits The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

More Than Just Parks Co-Founders Will & Jim Pattiz with one of the original Tuskegee Airmen (center of photo with cane) and a film crew at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

11. Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site | Alabama National Parks

George Washington Carver Museum at Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, Alabama | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On July 4, 1881, The Tuskegee Institute was founded by Booker T. Washington. It began operations as the Normal School for Colored Teachers at Tuskegee in 1881.

Washington believed the best form of education for his students—initially all future teachers themselves—would be practical skills. The school focused on modern farming methods, construction, carpentry, bricklaying, domestic service, and other industrial subjects.

The Institute was instrumental in building the first black Veterans Administration hospital and in the creation of what would become known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

In 1974, the Congress authorized the creation of Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site. Tuskegee University is the only college that is part of the National Park system. In 1985, the school became Tuskegee University.

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver’s laboratory equipment | Courtesy of Wikimedia

If you know anything about George Washington Carver then you likely know he had something to do with peanuts. Mark Hersey is a history professor at Mississippi State University. He’s the author of My Work Is That of Conservation. It’s an environmental biography of Carver.

Hersey makes the case that Carver did more than just work for peanuts. He made important contributions to the environmental movement, including his visionary ideas about self-sufficiency and sustainability.

Most Americans remember him simply as the “Peanut Man,” summarizing his life’s work with what was, arguably, his least important accomplishment. Oh, sure, Carver did discover around 300 uses for peanuts, from soap to wood stains to cooking oil — but those things were almost beside the point.

That noble cause led Carver to develop farming methods that increased crop yields, safeguarded ecological health, and revitalized soil ravaged by the overproduction of cotton, the linchpin of the South’s economy. No less importantly, Carver devoted much of his life to teaching formerly enslaved people how to use those techniques to achieve a measure of independence.”

-Grist, The land-healing work of George Washington Carver

Born Into Slavery

George Washington Carver | Missouri National Parks
George Washington Carver was the most prominent black scientist of the early 20th century | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Carver was born into slavery. He emerged from the aftermath of the Civil War as a man fully prepared to shake off the chains of oppression and become a person of consequence.

After obtaining his Master’s degree, Carver led the Agriculture Department at the Tuskegee Institute for 47 years.

Things To Do At The Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

1902 History class, Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee, Alabama | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The George Washington Carver Museum is open to the public. It features exhibits, interpretive programs, and a bookstore.

The “Oaks” is the home of George Washington Carver. You can take free ranger-guided tours of his historic home.

Visitors are free to explore the historic campus of the Tuskegee Institute

A map of the District and limited campus tours are available from the Carver Museum.

To Learn More Check Out These Books

If you want to learn the history of the Civil Rights Movement in America then you cannot do any better than Taylor Branch’s epic Civil Rights Trilogy of America in the King Years.
  1. Parting the Waters : America in the King Years 1954-63  by Taylor Branch.
  2. Pillar of Fire : America in the King Years 1963-65 by Taylor Branch.
  3. At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68 by Taylor Branch.
  4. The Tuskegee Airmen: The History and Legacy of America’s First Black Fighter Pilots in World War II by Charles Rivers Editors.
  5. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Claborne Carson.
  6. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. American: An Autobiography by Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.
  7. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  8. Three African-American Classics: Up from Slavery, The Souls of Black Folk and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois & Frederick Douglass.

Map Of Alabama National Park Sites

List Of Alabama National Parks

  1. Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
  2. Freedom Riders National Monument
  3. Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
  4. Little River Canyon National Reserve
  5. Natchez Trace Parkway
  6. Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail
  7. Russell Cave National Monument
  8. Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail
  9. Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail
  10. Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
  11. Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site
Tony Pattiz

Tony Pattiz is a retired history teacher currently researching and writing articles for More Than Just Parks.

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