• Monica Montanari

The Civil Rights Drive


So, no visit to Alabama is complete without investigating the cites that were so important to the Civil Rights Movement- Selma and Montgomery. Many of you may have seen the awesome new movie Selma- and I got to visit the place where it really happened. There were actually three marches from Selma to Montgomery to protest the restrictions that were placed upon African-Americans after they gained voting rights. The first march was in 1965- and marchers were attacked with billy clubs and tear gas as soon as they crossed over the city line in a horrible incident known as Bloody Sunday. The second march took place two days later- and when police confronted the marchers, led by Martin Luther King Jr., he decided to turn back to the church since they had been promised no protection. That night, one of the men who had come for the march, James Reeb, was murdered by a group of white racists. The third march, which President Lyndon Johnson swore to protect, started on March 21st and lasted until March 25th, with protestors marching 10 miles a day along the Jefferson Davis Highway. They ended in the state capitol in Montgomery with 25,000 people supporting voting rights. The United States government had to send out 2,000 soldiers of the United States army, 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard under Federal command, and tons of FBI agents and Federal Marshalls.

 

 

Once in Montgomery, we visited three amazing places. One was Dexter Avenue Baptist church where Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor from 1954-1960. He organized the Montgomery Bus Boycotts (involving the great Rosa Parks) in that very basement. Walking the steps where he assuredly walked was humbling to say the least- and these were the first steps my puppy, Teddy, walked down (hey, walking down stairs is scary when theyre as big as you are!).

Then, we paid a visit to the capitol of the State of Alabama- which is only steps away. Pretty crazy to think of all the people who marched here for something we deem so simple these days. We also paid a visit to the Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is famous in its own right for championing civil rights.

Now when I say we, I think that's the coolest part. I came here with one of my friends who happens to be African American- and being there with someone whose ancestors knew this struggle all too well was awesome for me. To me, it was the perfect moment: realizing that finally, as Martin Luther King Jr. had hoped and worked so hard for, a black guy and a white girl could walk side-by-side, looking at segregation and prejudice as a thing of the past. Though much subconscious racism still exists in the world, finally we can coexist- and not just that, but be friends. We can sit and laugh together and watch Teddy run through a fountain together without having to worry about what other people will think or if one of us is in danger of physical force or discrimination. And that, to me, is an incredible thing and such a blessing.