I spent a month touring in the South and I didn’t hit all the sites I could have. I stopped for a week in Nashville, 5 days in Tuscaloosa, 2 weeks in Montgomery and 2 nights each in Jackson, Mississippi and outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I took in what I could and learned a great deal. It was a fascinating trip. Here’s what I DID NOT see – Atlanta and Memphis – two big stops that just did not fit my itinerary; houses and death sites – Emmitt Till, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King; and stops I didn’t have time to make – Birmingham and Tuskegee. What I did see was at times overwhelming, beautiful, and made me think a great deal. I have been a warrior for social justice my entire life. I came out of this trip with new understandings, heightened awareness to my own shortcomings, and a newfound perspective on how we got to where we are in terms of race relations in this country. I’ll provide some historical perspectives, some insights, lots of photos, and some commentary as we go. This will be a multi-post effort over the next month, because it can’t fit in just one and do it justice. Here is a preview of where we are going. I’ll have some separate posts for touring and camping locations because I hit some great campgrounds along the way and some to avoid! All aboard as we head to Dixie.
Nashville – Meharry Medical College (HBCU), Looby house bombing site, Vanderbilt University (opened 1875 and architect was a Civil War officer)
Montgomery – Dexter Avenue Baptist church where MLK was minister, Montgomery slave auction block, Railroad Depot – center of the domestic slave trade in US; museums – Rosa Parks, Freedom Rides, Legacy (Equal Justice Institute); memorials – Peace and Justice (lynching – Equal Justice Institute), Civil Rights (Southern Poverty Law Center); Confederate sites – Old State Capitol, Confederate White House, Confederate War Memorial on Capitol grounds, Confederate Army prison,
Selma – Pettus Bridge – where voters rights march started, Selma Interpretive Site, Loundes County Interpretive Site, four encampment sites from the march to Montgomery (one in Montgomery)
Jackson – Mississippi Civil Rights museum
Wallace, LA – Whitney Plantation (tour from the slaves’ perspective)
Nashville is actually an important city in the history of civil rights, but it has few markers to note it. There were lunch counter sit ins, that included John Lewis who later would be a central figure in the civil rights movement and Congressman from Georgia, it is an origination site for the Freedom Rides that sought to integrate interstate buses, it is home to four Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), and a bombing site that was pivotal in ending the department stores lunch counter segregation. Of course Nashville also is the home of country music, the Grand Ole Opry, Johnny Cash, and countless honkey tonks and record companies. There are museums and tours that will show you the country music sites, but not for civil rights. Sadly, I missed the lunch counter at the downtown Woolworths where the sit-ins were part of the first wave of protests in 1960. There also is an exhibit at the Nashville public library which I somehow missed. This was the start of my tour and I wasn’t as organized as I should have been, I confess.
In a previous post I discussed the Nashville sites I did see and some of the restaurants I tried. A Different Nashville
Next up – Montgomery – the Cradle of the Confederacy