History in Alabama: Museums tell stories of the past

1/Museum of Alabama

Tucked into the Alabama Department of Archives and History, this museum tells the almost 200-year history of the state through photos, documents, and artifacts. Videos showcase topics from the cotton plantations, the Civil War, the civil rights movement and more. Stroll across the street to the state capitol (600 Dexter Avenue, 334-242-7100, where the remnants of the Jim Crow era are carved above the water fountains. The Confederacy was born in the senate chamber, and a star on the west portico marks the spot where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president. If you saw the movie “Selma,” you’ll recognize the capitol steps as the place where the freedom marchers arrived and heard Dr. Martin Luther King,, Jr., address the crowd.

524 Washington Avenue, Montgomery 334-242-4435,

2/ Gaineswood, Demopolis

What started in 1821 as a cabin was expanded and refined into a Greek Revival mansion that took more than 40 years to build. Constructed largely by slave laborers in seven sections, the elegant home known as Gaineswood was the showplace of a thriving cotton plantation by the time of the Civil War. After changing hands several times, the home was purchased by the state in 1966 and opened as a museum five years later. Visitors today can view the stunning domed ceilings, elaborate moldings and plasterwork, and many original furnishings. Gardens, a gazebo and picnic area are part of the five-acre site.

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805 S. Cedar Avenue, Demopolis. 334-289-4846,

3/ Dexter Parsonage Museum

This 1912 home was the pastor’s residence for the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church (454 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery; 334-263-3970), where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was pastor from 1954 to 1960. In 2003, the white-frame structure with nine rooms was renovated, and today it looks much as it did when King lived there. Some of the furnishings were used by the family. An adjacent visitors center features photographs of the pastors who lived there, dozens from 1920 through 1992. The church itself dates to 1879 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

309 S. Jackson St., Montgomery. 334-261-3270,

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