Dexter Avenue Baptist,
Civil Rights Memorial,
& Pettus Bridge
Our first stop in
Montgomery was the
Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
Martin Luther King, Jr. became minister of this church in 1954 as his
first full-time pastor-ship. In 1955 the Montgomery Bus Boycott began,
with King being drafted as its leader, thus launching his career in
We took a tour of the church along with about 30 school children. The tour
was very limited. In the first part the church secretary gave a description of the
various elements of a civil rights mural in the basement. Her narrative was a
combination of amateur flaws (containing a few remarkable inaccuracies)
and amateur passion, particularly in the moving speech she gave to the school
children about personal responsibility. In the second part of the tour we
saw the inside of the church:
Dexter Avenue Baptist is right down the street from the Alabama state capitol:
Because we had some spare time we visited the "First White House of the Confederacy."
That was a mistake we recommend you not repeat.
Our final stop in Montgomery was for a look at the Civil Rights Memorial
at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
We both liked it, but Matt was a bit surprised that it was almost identical to the
Yale University "Women's Table" monument to women at Yale. (Both were designed
by Yale grad Maya Lin.) The words you can see
inscribed on the surface of the monument are the names and dates of death of 40
martyrs of the civil rights movement. On the wall in back is a line to which
Martin Luther King returned in many of his speeches over the years,
"...until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."
Then we drove to Selma, tracing the route of the 1965 civil rights march between
there and the capitol in Montgomery. We visited the
Old Depot Museum, where we had
one of those classic southern experiences meeting an older Selma man who worked as
a volunteer at the museum and was eager to share with us many colorful but
slightly dubious tales about the town's history.
Then we had lunch at the Downtowner,
a "meat and three" restaurant. Turns out to be a southern phenomenon--the "meat and three
restaurant" serving plates of one of a selection of meats with three of a selection of
vegetables. Yum... stewed okra!
Next we visited the
National Voting Rights Museum & Institute. The best exhibit there
was a wall of "I Was There" notes from people who walked in the 1965 march. People
wrote anything from just "Me, too" notes to longer commentaries on what they had
seen and experienced. While there wasn't much more to see there, that part was very
moving. The only site we photographed was the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which was the site
of the brutal "Bloody Sunday" attack on the civil rights marchers on March 7, 1965.
Then we made a long drive to Vicksburg, MS. We had the option of stopping in to
see Jackson, the capitol of Mississippi, but we decided to bag it. Without
too much regret, because the city gets a bad rap in the tour books. Interesting fact:
Union troops did such a good job burning down the city that the occupiers
called it "chimneyville" because that's all that was left standing.