Exploring Selma and Montgomery Alabama

The second part of my solo road trip through Mississippi and Alabama took me through Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. Alabama was state #48 in the quest for 50. Once again, I did not have an agenda for the day before I started driving. I knew I had to end up in Birmingham because I had a hotel reserved there for that evening.

Waking up next to the gulf was a pretty nice way to start the day and I couldn’t resist getting a few photos.

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After admiring the view, I hopped into the car and headed north.

Montgomery

I decided my first stop would be Montgomery and the Rosa Parks Museum. In case you do not know about Rosa Parks, she was an activist during the civil rights movement. Ms. Parks is best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She refused to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus she was riding on.

The Rosa Parks Museum is on the campus of Troy University and includes lots of information and some artifacts from the boycott. Unfortunately, I arrived at the museum about 30 minutes before close, which was too late to join an official tour of the museum. I was able to look around and view the exhibits they had on site. I learned a lot and I recommend it if you are in Montgomery.

After going through the museum, I decided to leave my car where it was parked and walk around Montgomery to explore. My goal was to find Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pastor, the Civil Rights Memorial and the Alabama State Capitol building.

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The skies really are so blue in Sweet Home Alabama. 
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A little explanation of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
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My hand is uplifted. Is yours? 
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Rosa Parks statue at the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.

 

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Footprints in the crosswalk in Montgomery

After a quick look at the fountain pictured above, I found the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church congregation was organized in 1877 and was first known as the Second Colored Baptist Church. Martin Luther King, Jr. served as pastor of the church from 1954 to 1960. He organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott  from his office in the basement of this church.

The church was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1974 and on January 1, 2008 the US Government submitted it to UNESCO as part of an envisaged future World Heritage nomination. It is currently on the UNESCO ‘Tentative List of World Heritage Sites. The church was not open while I was there so I wasn’t able to go inside but it was enough to visit the outside and read about the church’s history and its significance while I was there.

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Do you see tiny me at the top of the stairs? 
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Dexter Avenue Baptist Church
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Pretty view of the Alabama State Capitol building from in front of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

From the front of the church, you can look up the street and see the Alabama State Capitol building. The building is perched atop a hill, looking over the sweeping landscape of downtown Montgomery. It is quite a site from the bottom of the hill. The capitol building was built in 1851. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the First Confederate Capitol.  

Around the corner from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church is the Civil Rights Memorial. Most of my time at the memorial was spent watching a video explaining how the memorial came about and giving visitors an insight into the Civil Rights Movement. My biggest takeaway from the movie was that there were so many murders that not only were never solved, but not even pursued by the police. What an awful time in US history.

I do not have a photo of the actual monument but it is a circular fountain that you can put your hands in. I saw a glimpse of it as I was leaving the memorial. I couldn’t touch it though because it is under construction and closed (seems to be the theme of my time in Montgomery).

Deciding to walk around the city and leave my car by the Rosa Parks Museum was a great idea until it started pouring down rain on the walk back to my car. Even after ducking under awnings and trying to wait the worst part of it out, I was soaked to the bone by the time I reached my car.

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Pretty antebellum-ish house outside of the Civil Rights Memorial.
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So much rain!

Selma

After getting back to my car and drying out a bit, I decided to continue my Civil Rights education by heading to Selma. Selma is best known for the 1960’s Selma Voting Rights Movement and the Selma to Montgomery marches. The marches began with “Bloody Sunday” in March 1965 and ended with 25,000 people entering Montgomery at the end of the last march to press for voting rights. The activism generated national attention and that summer, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed by Congress. The Voting Rights Act authorized federal oversight and enforcement of constitutional rights of all citizens.

President Obama gave a speech on the bridge in Selma in 2015 on the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday. I was able to get out of my car and walk across the bridge but I had to do it quickly because another storm was brewing and approaching quickly. I was just about dried out from the rain in Montgomery and did not want to get wet again.

Luckily, I made it back to my car just before the sky opened up and unleashed another torrential rain storm. I stayed in my car and waited this one out so I didn’t get wet but with that, my time in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama came to a close.

Next up, Birmingham and you can find the post about my time in Birmingham in my next post.

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An explanation of the attack that took place. The bridge in Selma is in the background.
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View from the bridge in Selma
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Bridge in Selma were Bloody Sunday took place. The storm clouds are getting close in the background.
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Selma and Montgomery Alabama

 

How to Spend a Day in Birmingham, Alabama

This final blog post from my trip to Mississippi and Alabama about how to spend a day in Birmingham, Alabama has been sitting in the “draft” section on my website for a while now. I have been struggling to come up with a way to start it. And then today, it came to me via a video that has gone viral.

The Video

Have you seen the video of Texas Democratic nominee Beto O’Rourke responding to a question about kneeling during the anthem at a town hall he was having in Texas? If you haven’t, you should check it out. A section of his response pretty much sums up a large portion of this trip for me.

In his response, he mentioned “Parting the Waters, America in the King Years 1954-63” a book written by Taylor Branch (that I now have on hold at the library). Taylor Branch is an author best known for his trilogy of books chronicling the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and much of the history of the American Civil Rights. After mentioning the book, Mr. O’Rourke lists other events that took place during the Civil Rights Movement, including…

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. and the work he did in Alabama. I visited Montgomery and the church where MLK, Jr. was a pastor during this trip.
  • John Lewis and the men and women who were beaten as they marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. I walked across this bridge.
  • The four little girls killed at the 16th Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham. I stood outside this church and pondered how anyone can be as evil as the klansmen who committed this crime.

I have been fortunate to visit many different places over the years that are ripe in U.S. history, including Boston and Philadelphia among others. Visiting these places is a great way to learn about the “good” part of U.S. history – the Revolutionary War, the Freedom Trail, the Boston Tea Party…the list goes on.

The trip to Mississippi and particularly, Alabama, was a chance for me to learn about a “dark” period in U.S. history. There were so many things I didn’t know or forgot. This trip affected me more than any trip has in recent memory and I am so thankful I had the chance to go.

A Day in Birmingham, Alabama

If you made it this far and are still with me, thanks for hearing me out and reading on. Below are some photos from my time in Birmingham. I enjoyed my time there. It’s a small city that is worth a visit if you have a the chance. You will probably learn a thing or two while you are there too.

But First, Food

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The burger I had for dinner after arriving in Birmingham.
Magic City Grille Southern Comfort Food
I wanted some good southern comfort food before I left Alabama and the Magic City Grille delivered. I arrived shortly after it opened and was told that I should wait for the buffet because that is what they are known for. So I hung out for about 30 minutes until that happened. It was worth the wait.
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The completed buffet.
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Fried chicken, mac and cheese and potato salad. Delish! I would say the wait was worth it. 🙂
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The pretty entrance to Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham
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I love a pretty doorway. It’s a bonus when there are two!

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Outside of the Alabama Theater
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I loved this mural. It was so colorful and made me happy.
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16th Avenue Baptist Church

16th Avenue Baptist Church

The photo above is of the 16th Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham. This church was where four little girls were killed on September 15, 1963 when four members of the Ku Klux Klan planted dynamite attached to a timing device beneath the steps on the east side of the church. The explosion also injured 22 others. Even though the FBI concluded that the bombing had been committed by four known KKK members, no prosecutions ensued until 1977 when one of the klansmen was tried and convicted of murder for one of the victims. Two other klansmen were convicted and sentenced to life in prison related to the attacked in 2001 and 2002 – ALMOST 40 YEARS LATER!!! The fourth klanman died in 1994 and was never charged for his alleged involvement in the attack.

The four girls killed in the attack were Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair. The sculpture below is in Kelly Ingram Park across the street from the church and honors these four girls.

The 16th Avenue Baptist Church bombing marked a turning point in the U.S. during the civil rights movement and contributed to support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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Such a pretty sculpture to honor the four girls killed in the bombing.
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Another sculpture in Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham.
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Statue of MLK, JR in Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham
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The Vulcan overlooking Birmingham

Vulcan Park

The photo directly above was taken in Vulcan Park in Birmingham. I was researching the park to tell you more about it and found this description from Lonely Planet – “Imagine Christ the Redeemer in Rio, but made of iron and depicting a beefcake Roman god of metalworking.”

Haha! This totally made me chuckle…because it is basically true! This “beefcake” overlooks the city of Birmingham He is made of 100,000 pounds of iron and is 56 feet tall. The Vulcan stands at the top of Red Mountain and is visible from all over Birmingham. He is the world’s largest cast-iron statue. Vulcan Park, where he resides, offers fantastic views of the city. The park also includes a small on-site museum that explores Birmingham history.

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A pretty view of Birmingham from Vulcan Park high atop the city.

And with some last views of the city, my time in Mississippi and Alabama and a day in Birmingham, Alabama came to an end. Thank you for your southern hospitality. I hope to visit again sometime.

Read about my time in Montgomery and Selma, Alabama here.

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Things to do in Birmingham Alabama