Friday, July 29, 2011

Civil Rights Bus Tour - Day 4, July 14, 2011

Our first stop on day four was to Selma, Alabama. Selma, like Montgomery to the east, is on the Alabama River and based its economy on cotton for decades. We first visited the National Voting Rights Museum, which recently moved to its current location. The museum is a good example of how a local community is taking control and preserving its history without waiting for funds or outside help. Their aim is to honor the "foot soldiers" of the movement; those that didn't necessarily gain notoriety but stood up for their rights and what was right.

The museum has an amazing set of photos of the three marches that were planned to go from Selma to Montgomery. On February 18, 1965 Jimmie Lee Jackson was killed by an Alabama state trooper while trying to protect his mother during a voting rights protest. The first march was led by Hosea Williams and attempted on March 7, 1965 in protest of Jackson's death. The marchers were met by Sheriff Jim Clark's deputized citizens and when the marchers stopped to talk to the police they started being shoved and beaten. Seventeen of the marchers were hospitalized and the day went down in history as "Bloody Sunday."

The second march was organized by Dr. King and took place on March 9, 1965. 2500 people participated but it was stopped by a federal court order. King didn't want to disobey the federal order since he knew that federal authorities were his only possible protection.

On March 16, a federal judge ruled in the protesters favor and the third march went off on March 21. The marches made it to the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery on March 25. That night Viola Liuzzo, a white woman from Detroit who came to Alabama to help the voting rights effort was shot by members of the Ku Klux Klan while driving African American marchers back to Selma.

In the above photo Sheriff Clark's police patrol outside of Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which we next visited.

Brown Chapel AME Church is a unique place, as it can make the rare claim of having both Dr. King and Malcolm X speak there during the movement. Malcolm X spoke there on February 4, 1965, only weeks before he was killed in New York City on February 21, 1965. Brown Chapel is situated in a neat kept housing project neighborhood.

A monument to Dr. King, James Reeb, Jimmie Lee Jackson and Viola Liuzzo at Brown Chapel.

Our group on the historic steps of Brown Chapel

At the National Voting Rights Museum was a political election card for Sheriff Jim Clark (pictured above) with nightstick and cattle prod. It included a poem of sorts that stated:

Jim Clark Says
Never be afraid to do what's right
Always be willing to stand and fight
Never be overcome by Socialism
For the next thing that follows is Communism
Never be overcome by Federal Control
Stand for States Rights true and bold
Never let true justice be forgotten or
Overrun in our Dixie Land of Cotton
Never be afraid of the Leftist Block
Stand true and firm like Gibralter's rock
Never dim the glow of bright true light
Always lead us through the restless night.

Making the walk across the bridge was a moving experience for me; much like being on a Civil War battlefield.

This historic photo shows marchers crossing over the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

A historic photo of "Bloody Sunday." The bridge can be seen in the background with clouds of tear gas.

Near the site of "Bloody Sunday" three monuments have been placed to honor some of those that fought for voting rights: Hosea Williams, John Lewis, Amelia Boyton Robinson and Marie Foster.

I couldn't resist snapping a picture of a genuine Alabama cane brake. This one was across Highway 80 from Essie's Place, where we ate a wonderful down home lunch.

Much of the rest of the day was spent traveling through west Alabama and into east Mississippi. We went through tornado ravaged Tuscaloosa. The damage was beyond belief where the twister touched down.

We finally found our way to Oxford, Mississippi, home of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and William Faulkner. The courthouse square is your ideal southern setting. There are at least three bookstores in the numerous businesses around the courthouse so obviously I was in heaven. After having supper at City Grocery we headed on to Memphis.

This plaque on the Lafayette County, Mississippi Courthouse is a great Faulkner quote...a sentence that runs on forever.

A southern courthouse square would not be complete without the ubiquitous Confederate monument.

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