Note: This was published originally in my hometown newspaper, Feb. 2004 or 2005. I wanted to contribute to Black History Month.
I don’t know much about Australian history. I can only speak about it in broad generalities… The British made it a penal colony. They nearly annihilated the aboriginal people who were there before them. They drink Foster’s beer, say things like, “g’day mate” and, they recently hosted the summer Olympics. That’s about it. I could not name a historically significant place or an important date in their history. But, more on that later.
A few years ago my husband and I were meandering through the deep-south on our way to
The closer we got, the more excited we became. Montgomery: Where Dr. King rose to international prominence as a civil rights leader; where in 1955, Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white man ignited a civil rights movement; where 17,000 blacks made their already hard lives harder, by walking to work for thirteen straight months, rather than let Jim Crow laws control them any longer; the state capitol destination for the voting rights marchers from Selma. This was going to be one cool place to visit.
Our first stop was to the visitor’s center. The very nice ladies volunteering there were anxious to show off their hometown, only not the part we came to see. They did not want to talk about, nor could they tell us how to find, what we came to see. They wanted us to know the “father of modern gynecology” made his home in
We visited the Dr. King’s church there on
It reminded me of David and Goliath. Dr. King’s church seemed dwarfed by the statues and buildings on the hill. Yet, there with Jefferson Davis looking on, little David toppled Goliath. Wow. In 1965,
By asking other pedestrians, city workers and others, we were able to find Dr. King’s home that was bombed in 1956, Dr. Ralph Abernathy’s church, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the civil right memorial that honors 40 men and women who died in the name of justice.
After all that, we knew we had to see
To get into
At least part of
There was a room of feet; yes, feet. There were plaster casts of the marcher’s feet, there were the shoes people wore on their feet, and there was even pictures of the blisters on their feet, all precious artifacts of a people in struggle. There was a room full of really good black and white photographs. Interestingly enough, the FBI took most of them. The museum got them through the Freedom of Information Act.
We asked the museum curator if
“Yes,” she said in a pitch that seemed more like thinking than speaking, “No little girls have to suffer that indignity any more.” She felt some things were much better. Other things still had a long way to go.
We took a walking tour through
At each point along our two-day visit to
“Busses?” we repeated.
He went on to ask in his Australian accent, “For two days I’ve been to all these historical places, and you are the only other tourists I’ve seen! Didn’t these places shape the
We had landed in
We’ve thought a lot about his question since then. The history we experienced in
For them, it might as well be