Healthy Soul

Birmingham, AL – Getting ready for the best tour

My friend Valarie and I are on our own Black History tour aboard Amtrak, visiting heritage sites pertaining to African American history in Chicago; Memphis; Jackson, MS; New Orleans; Birmingham and Washington, DC. We began on Tuesday, June 28, 2011. Here is what we did on Day 9, traveling from New Orleans to Birmingham.

There are three options to leave New Orleans by train:

• City of New Orleans heading to Chicago;

• Crescent heading to New York City

• Sunset heading to Los Angeles.

We said goodbye to the Big Easy, got on the Crescent and began the ride to Birmingham. Unlike the City of New Orleans train, the Crescent had no superliner cars so it was not as easy to take pictures of the scenery. The seven-hour ride took us across Lake Pontchartrain out of Louisiana into Mississippi before entering Alabama. We saw the signs to Philadelphia, MS, the back gates of Southern Mississippi University and the large Budweiser plant in Meridian, MS.

Passengers heading north from Hattiesburg, MS.

Our welcome to Birmingham was made special by Vickie Ashford, director of travel media for the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau. Accommodations were secured at the Holiday Inn, Birmingham-Homewood. Reservations were made for us to have dinner with Barry McNealy and his wife Izette at the Hot and Hot Fish Club in the Historic Five Points neighborhood. Unable to join us in person, Vickie arranged to have Don, her favorite server there, to take care of us. Don’s description of each dish catalyzed each person’s saliva glands. My nonalcoholic peach drink, made fresh with nectar and chunks of local tree-ripened white peach, was heavenly. I could see why patrons made that two-hour drive from Atlanta for an evening with Don.

The Hot and Hot Fish Club in the Five Points Historic District in Birmingham, AL.

Barry, a social studies teacher in the Birmingham public schools, interned and then worked five years with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and now ran its Youth Legacy Program. He gives free guided tours of Birmingham each Saturday in June. Izette works with community outreach programs at Auburn University.

Izette McNealy, wife of Barry McNealy, a social studies teacher and civil rights tour guide, gets ready to enjoy her dessert.

Barry and Izette took us back to our hotel, and plans were finalized for an early start on our personalized tour with him.


Click here to read the other posts from Jennifer’s Black History Tour.


  1. Thank you for sharing your trip with us. I have enjoyed every mile.

    • Hey Lynda – This journey has been fun, extremely educational, and a reminder that there are so many wonderful ways to enjoy life. We’ve met and talked with so many people who so readily shared themselves and their cities with us. Thanks for traveling with us.