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Civil Rights tourism: Furthering the dream

By Staff
Rep. Ronald Grantland, Guest columnist
A recent national article proclaimed the civil rights movement as one of the most important events in American history. Many of the most important events of the civil rights movement were based right here in Alabama, showing that our state's history is as rich in tradition and history as any other in the nation.
As Alabama observes the holiday honoring the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. next week, we should all take some time to not only reflect on Dr. King's incredible accomplishments, but also to take advantage of where we live and visit some of the places and monuments dedicated to the civil rights movement. Our civil rights heritage is unmatched by any other state and going to these historic sites is not only fun, but it increases awareness about Alabama's positive impact on our nation.
Civil rights tourism has become a big business for our state and will only increase as interest in our civil rights heritage continues to grow. With the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks' courageous stand and the Montgomery bus boycott as major events, 2005 proved to be quite successful. Last year the industry generated over $100 million in economic impact for the state and shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.
Additionally, tourist spending at Alabama's historical sites impacts us all. The majority of tourism revenue goes to the state General Fund Budget, which funds highway construction, state troopers and Medicaid. More tourism means a better Alabama, and there is no better time to visit our state's many enlightening sites than on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
In Montgomery, the Rosa Parks Museum, Dexter Avenue Church and Parsonage where Dr. King lived and preached, and the newly completed Civil Rights Shrine are fascinating and must-see attractions. There is also a self-guided walking trail with stops at various important sites throughout the city.
There are many other interesting sites around the state as well.
There are also several statewide events commemorating the actual King holiday. For example, the Moody Music Building on the campus of The University of Alabama will host the 17th annual "Realizing the Dream" concert on Jan. 16. If you ever have the chance to hear the young people from Stillman College and the University sing, you should definitely go.
The Civil Rights Institute and Museum in Birmingham plans to hold a birthday celebration in Birmingham to honor Dr. King. The event will include a multitude of programs and presentations.
For more information on these events, other King holiday activities, or additional information on civil rights tourism, visit www.800alabama.com or call 1-800-Alabama.
As we observe a holiday in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., do your part by visiting one of the sites of a dream he fought so hard to see become a reality. By doing so, you can help keep the dream alive and generate money for our great state, something Dr. King would be proud of.

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