Our days at the beach have come to an end. It’s always sad to leave the beach behind, and today was no exception. We set out first thing in the morning, back across the roller-coaster bridge, and onto the mainland. Our destination for the day was Montgomery, AL.
Our first stop in Montgomery was the Alabama State Capitol. Outside the south entrance of the capitol building was a U-shaped drive lined with the state flags of all 50 states. At the base of the flag was a flat 1ft x 1.5ft chunk of stone representing the state. It was neat to walk along and see what kind of stone represented each state. South Dakota and Wyoming had pieces of petrified wood, which I thought was really cool! Unlike many of the capitol buildings we have been in lately, this one is no longer used for the main offices or House and Senate Chambers. Those have been moved to newer buildings nearby. So, we had the run of the place without all the hubbub that we had in Texas just a week or so ago. State Capitols often have unique and interesting details that strike me. Alabama’s was its carpets. There were several unique patterns in vivid colors. On the wall of the old House of Representatives chamber was a plaque commemorating the signing of the declaration for Alabama to secede from the United States.
After checking out the State Capitol building, we walked across the street to the First White House of the Confederacy. Inside, we were greeted by a very friendly and chatty docent, who just happened to be a yankee from upstate New York. Kinda detracted from the ambiance, but what can you do. It was a smallish house, definitely not on par with the original White House in Washington DC. Also, this house only served at the home of the Confederate President for about a year or less before the capitol was moved to Virginia. There were quite a few artifacts preserved that were actually used by Jefferson Davis and his family. In my experience of touring old houses, that seems quite rare – usually there are only a few pieces from the original owner and most are collected from various sources from the right time period.
Our next stop was the National Memorial for Peace and Justice (more commonly known as the new Lynching Memorial). Rob and I first heard about it on NBC Nightly news. Lester Holt did a segment on it, in which he found the name of a relative who was lynched. I felt like these lychings and the atmosphere of our society that allowed such things to happen in such numbers is a part of US history that is too often glossed over.
As expected, the memorial was a sobering site. The enormous hanging steel blocks memorialize the 4,000 souls who were violently ended; most for the smallest infraction: yelling at white teenagers, looking the wrong way at a white woman, knocking on a white person’s door. Looking back from where we are today, it’s hard to imagine a world in which enough people thought this kind of behavior was okay that it prevailed as the norm.
From the Memorial, we moved on to its companion museum, the Legacy Museum, which tells the story of slavery through modern day. The focus here is on how the tradition of racial terrorism continues from organiized slavery, through Jim Crow Laws, and on to today with our the biases against people of color that continue in our current justice system. Today, the effects of slavery followed by white society’s systemic vilification and violence against people of color continues to affect the the way both blacks and whites see each other. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. I don’t wish to be political in this blog, but as I read the stories in the museum, I couldn’t help but see parallels with the current administration’s vilification and generalizations that all the migrants gathering at our borders are drug dealers and rapists. That is not the case, these are people just like us, fleeing from dire situations in their homelands. And if we treat them as criminals we risk creating criminals where there were none and show that we have learned nothing from the civil rights movement.
Getting back to the lighthearted travel blog, we moved on from Alabama and into Georgia. Tomorrow we drive the last leg of our trip home. It will be good to see our house. From the outdoor cameras, it looks like we should have tulips and redbud trees in bloom and fresh spring leaves on our trees. Any maybe even a visit by the bears.