I am finishing up a three day business trip to Montgomery, Alabama, the birthplace of two events that could not be further apart. In 1861, Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederacy lived in this town and his home, featured above, became the first white house of the confederacy. The home smells as if it has not been cleaned since then either but is a fantastic remnant of a time long past in our country we often gloss over. The first white house of the confederacy has 11 rooms and 10 fireplace, no kitchen and no bathroom (no running water in 1861). The house was moved from its original location about 10 blocks away piece by piece in the early part of the 20th century and expertly put back together like a residential puzzle. From this home, the confederate army during the Civil War, or as the Southerners called it, “The war between the states”, was directed. As the battles were primarily in Virginia at that time, Jefferson Davis moved to Richmond for a variety of reasons, one of which was that he and his generals could process the war more effectively, as it was taking too long to relay information from Virginia all the way down to Montgomery, Alabama. Jefferson Davis’ legacy remains heavy in the south especially in Montgomery.
The second event, diametrically opposite the southern civil war president’s home, was the instant Rosa Parks decided to sit her ground and refuse to get up from her seat on the bus in the face of an extremely segregated city. In December 1955, Rosa Parks has been credited with igniting the start of the modern civil rights movement. While Rosa Parks lived to a ripe old age, many individuals protesting the treatment of minorities, did not live so long and gave their lives for a cause in which they believed. The Civil Rights Memorial and Museum tells their stories so others will not forget their sacrifices. I highly recommend the Rosa Parks Museum located at the exact site of where Ms. Parks refused to arise from her seat, as told by the historical marker above.
A few blocks from the Rosa Parks Museum is the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, now called the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. This church was the home base of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While I was unable to go inside and view the church (Do not go on Mondays. It is closed), standing in the shadow of American heroes was a great experience. Learning about their lives, their struggles, their hopes, their letdowns, their fears, their sacrifices, and ultimately, their greatest successes, at the very sites in which they fought their demons, was a significant learning adventure for me.
Today, I fly out on a Delta flight back to the Boston-area but get to feel the sun, heat and humidity on my shoulders in Alabama just a few moments more as my flight is delayed by an hour. You’ve heard of “island time” I am sure, but there is also “southern time” or “Bama time” here, where life is a little slower and nobody is in a great rush to do most anything. This is a good thing. It allows us to stop and look around once in a while, and think about where we stand and where “we” have come from. From the birth of the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, Montgomery showcases it all.