Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Montgomery, Alabama--Civil War to Civil Rights

Our camping spot at Gunter Hill is just 15 miles from Alabama's capitol, so we made several trips into the city. We might have been sleeping through history class when we were (much) younger, because we have certainly forgotten a lot of things in those history text books. But traveling around this country in a motor home is a great way to relearn it.

We'll start with Civil War sites, since Montgomery played an important role in the leadership of the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederacy while standing on the front steps of the Alabama state capitol. That would be Mark standing on the capitol steps on the right, and a statue of Mr. Davis on a pedestal on the left.

The Davis family would move into the First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery. It was called the "first white house" because they would later move to Richmond, Virginia, to be closer to the heart of the action.

We would continue inside the house, but not before Denisa sat and enjoyed the glorious azalea blooms out front.

This was a free stop in the city, so of course we would go inside. It was a great chance to see an authentically furnished home from the 1860's. The Davis family left many of their heirlooms to the group in Montgomery that bought and maintains this home.

That would include the Jefferson Davis family bible on the table, surrounded by his chairs.

It is amazing to us that famous Civil War locations are so close to famous Civil Rights locations. Here we are standing in front of the church that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pastored from 1954-1960, and we can see the Alabama capitol down the street.

Below is a picture of that Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. We found that the civil rights sites in Montgomery cost from $7.50 to $12.00 per person to go inside, so we were content to view them from the outside. We took the budget tour of the civil rights sites by enjoying the educational markers on the street.

On a blue-sky day, a three-mile walking trail through downtown Montgomery was like walking through the history books. We stood on the sidewalk right where Rosa Parks was arrested because she refused to give up her seat to a white man in 1955. Soon after, the Montgomery bus boycott was organized at Dr. King's church. For 382 days, African-Americans did not use the city buses until the Supreme Court declared segregation on public transportation unconstitutional. In the meantime, the boycott almost bankrupted Montgomery's bus system.

Montgomery also plays host to the Civil Rights Memorial and Center. Another place we didn't go inside, but there are beautiful water features and memorials to see outside.

The same is true of the Greyhound Bus Station museum. We didn't pay the admission price to go inside, but outside there is a great time-line of events from the Freedom Riders incident in Montgomery on May 20, 1961. This page must have been missing in our history books because we don't remember ever hearing this story before. 

Most of these civil rights events happened before we were born, and we feel like we have been insulated from this strife in Oklahoma. But living temporarily in Alabama has made us more aware of all things "civil" on our very educational tour!

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