The second part of my solo road trip through Mississippi and Alabama took me through Alabama (state #48 in the quest for 50). Same as the day before, I did not have an agenda for the day before I started driving but 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. I couldn’t resist getting a few photos.
After admiring the view, I hopped into the car and headed north. I decided my first stop would be Montgomery and the Rosa Parks Museum. Hopefully everyone knows Rosa Parks but in case you don’t, she was an activist during the civil rights movement. She is best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott when she refused to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus she was riding on.
The Rosa Parks museum 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, but I was able to look around and view the exhibits they had on site. It was worth checking out and I recommend it if you are in Montgomery.
After going through the museum, I decided to leave my car and walk around Montgomery for a while. 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.
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.
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).
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 and I was just about dried out from the rain in Montgomery. I did not want to get wet again.
Luckily, I made it back to my car just before the sky opened up and unleashed a torrential rain storm. I just stayed in my car and waited this one out before continuing on to Birmingham.