"The Help" Has Created a New Itinerary for Visiting Notable Sites from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s

In addition to being a major hit of the movie season, the film The Help, based on the 2009 novel by Kathryn Stockett, is rapidly becoming a reason for travel, as I'll explain further on.

But as for the film itself: this story of a Mississippi community in the 1960s, tells of the relationship between the black women who worked for affluent southern families, cleaning their homes and bringing up their children, and the well-off wives who hired them. It is certainly the first film I have ever seen that portrays the life of working women rather than that of the persons for whom they worked.

The relationship to travel? Actual settings depicted in the film, in Greenwood, Mississippi, are currently being sought out by tourists driving through the South in their automobiles, who immediately recognize the homes and neighborhoods that were featured at dramatic moments. Some perceptive tourists go even further to Jackson, Mississippi, an hour and a half away, which was the actual setting for the events pictured in the novel as opposed to the film.

But it is almost wholly in Greenwood that you'll see the residential neighborhoods where characters in the film lived. It's there, as well, that you'll find the downtown bookshop where copies of The Help were sold, much to the consternation of the persons described in it. It is also in downtown Greenwood that you'll see the drugstore/coffee shop whose soda fountain counter and café tables were also depicted in the film.

In addition to reflecting scenes from the film, both Greenwood and Jackson are the sites of important events in the civil rights movement. You will find a detailed listing and description of those sites at CivilRightsTravel.com ( www.civilrightstravel.com ), which is maintained by travel writer Larry Bleiberg, who believes that places important to the civil rights movement should be visited by all Americans.

He has a great deal to say about Greenwood and Jackson, Mississippi, and especially about plaques in Greenwood that identify locations of, and commemorate, the Freedom Rides of 1961, when interracial ministers, among others interracial groups, rode interstate buses into Mississippi and Alabama to test the efficacy of a Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation on such buses (the Freedom Riders were viciously beaten by mobs that descended upon those buses). He describes sites in Greenwood and Jackson associated with the murders of teenager Emmet Till and civil rights leader Medgar Evers. And he describes a succession of buildings and centers that were filmed in The Help.

Bleiberg's website deserves to be studied by all of us, and it adds additional depth to the themes treated in the movie of The Help. It also provides itineraries for illuminating travel through all the southern states. Other prominent locations that CivilRightsTravel.com regards as important to visit include, of course, the new Martin Luther King Memorial in West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C. And in the southern states: the Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina, with its reproduction of the Woolworth lunch counter where civil rights activists conducted their famous sit-in; the cell in Birmingham, Alabama, where Martin Luther King composed his "Letter from Birmingham Jail"; a statue of James Meredith on the state university campus in Oxford, Mississippi, where he exercised his right to enroll as a student; the "schoolhouse door" where the late Gov. George Wallace blocked entrance to federal officials seeking desegregation of the University of Alabama; and many others, all enumerated state-by-state in CivilRightsTourism.com.

These remarkable locations need to be visited by all of us.
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Published on August 30, 2011 12:20
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