Changing the World
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WBRC) - Lee Sentell began his professional career as a newspaper journalist, which allowed him to be an eyewitness to The Civil Rights Movement in our state, including hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak in 1965. He always had a heart for telling not only the story of The Civil Rights Movement, but the story of our state. Today, as Director of Tourism and the author of a new book, he has been able to combine those passions into a Guide to The National Civil Rights Trail.
According to Sentell, “25 million people come to Alabama and they spend $16. Particularly with what The Equal Justice Initiative has built in Montgomery, a lot more people are coming to see The Civil Rights Trail in Alabama than ever before.”
Sentell says visitors to our state discover some undiscovered facts about The Civil Rights Movement. “People are surprised to find out that George Wallace was governor when the state tourism department created the first Black Heritage Guide in the country. We did The Alabama Civil Rights Trail in about 2004 and updated it every year. Alabama had a Civil Rights Trail for about 15 years, and other Southern States wanted to participate. I said, ‘Let’s put a list together of sites in your state that people should come see.’”
Sentell says his new book began as a web site. “Luckie Advertising here in Birmingham put together a spectacular website. A couple of years ago, I was talking to Dr. King’s daughter, Bernice King, and she said, ‘Y’all have a beautiful website for The Civil Rights Trail, but you need a book.’”
This served as an inspiration for Sentell to write his new book. “Since a I was a newspaper reporter in my first life, I wanted to make a reasonably short story about each of the 14 cities about why they’re significant in terms of Civil Right History.”
Of course, a large part of the trail centers in Alabama. “People who have never been to Montgomery before are amazed when they get to Dexter Avenue, and they see where the state capitol is, and a block from there is Martin Luther King’s Church where the Civil Rights movement started. A lot of people have not been to Tuskegee where The Tuskegee Airmen were created.”
And the Trail continues to grow. “The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and across the street at 16th Avenue Baptist Church, will be part of essentially a National Park.”
Sentell concludes, “What happened here, which means The South changed the world. It really did.”
Copyright 2021 WBRC. All rights reserved.