June 2, 2013
With apologies to Melina Mercouri and her movie of that name, never plan to visit the city of Montgomery, Alabama on Sunday.
Everything is closed. It is probably not the wisest decision to visit it in early June either. It was stiflingly hot.
Montgomery is interesting for two topics…the birth of the Confederacy and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. We wanted to visit it as part of a civil rights themed day. (We are on our way to Birmingham from here).
In all fairness we knew everything would be closed on Sunday, but we did think perhaps the Visitors’ Center would be open. (It wasn’t). Fortunately for us, there was a man unloading his Segways and he was able to orient us as to what to do and how to accomplish it. We wanted to walk around, which we did, but as I said, that may not have been wise. It was hot.
The main action in Montgomery for our walk centered on Dexter St., between the gorgeous fountain on one end and the Capitol building on the other. The street at the fountain end is pretty run down, with many storefronts boarded up and closed, a picture of urban decay and the current economic difficulties. I cannot help but think that these historic areas need to be maintained. It is a shame to let these buildings cast a negative light on an entire downtown. To think only of the tourist draw afforded by nice shops and restaurants is to ignore the effect on all the legislators and their staffs, the Bar Association and all its employees, the judicial center and its employees and their visitors to have services like restaurants, coffee shops, and stores opening and functioning ion this street.
Walking this street we got to see both civil war landmarks and civil rights landmarks. We saw where the documents were signed seceding Alabama from the union and we saw where the Union flag was re-hoisted after General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Actually, we got to see the historical markers commemorating these events (remember, everything was closed to visitors on a Sunday!). We saw the Dexter Street Baptist Church where Martin Luther King, Jr. was pastor and the bus stop where Rosa Parks boarded the bus that fateful day and galvanized the civil rights movement in America by sparking the Montgomery bus boycott. We saw the civil rights memorial designed by Maya Lin.
Both in reading through the history of the civil rights movement and visiting the sites, I had to wrack my rain for personal memories of those years. For most of the events of the 60s, I was a small child, but it does bother me that beyond the names and facts, I have no ideas of what I felt at the time, and the climate in my very white little Wisconsin hometown. I would love to hear from some of you as to what you remember of the times and what the media coverage was where you were at the time of the bus boycott, Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches, etc.
To continue reading Part II (day 2), click here.
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