Wednesday was one of the last days for focusing on our America history agenda. Still in Montgomery, we spent the day visiting more Civil Rights venues. This day was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.
We started the day at the Rosa Parks Museum.
We expected it to be just like most, a room full of pictures, documents, captions. It was NOT. For this museum you have the option to start on what is called the children’s side. You enter a room and step into a time travel machine designed as a bus which is surrounded by large screens. (It is an incredibly creative way to present the video.)
You time travel with Rosa Parks back to the early 1800’s and then progressively forward in time (the bus vibrates with each time travel) with Rosa Parks narrating the significance of the time period and how it lead up to the bus boycott.
Once you arrive to 1955, you proceed to the other side of the museum where you move from room to room, each having another creative method of presenting what happened the day Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat through the year that the bus boycott lasted.
Once again, we felt like we left the museum with a thorough understanding of not only the events that happened, but also the political and social climate of the time period.
From there we walked over to the Dexter Avenue Baptist church where Martin Luther King was head pastor for 6 years.
We were greeted by the tour guide, Wanda, a current church member, who immediately gave us hugs.
She is one of those people who exudes an infectious energy. We hung out with her for a few minutes and she asked us about our travels while we waited for the Road Scholar group that was scheduled for the tour.
Once the 40+ Road Scholars and the two of us were seated in the chapel, Wanda asked us to introduce ourselves to the Road Scholars and tell them about our adventure. They all instantly fell in love with Shayna. Then Wanda asked a few people to stand up front with her and said we were going to sing. One of the Road Scholars said she was from a different tribe, we looked over at her and she looked at us – instant understanding. We all sang a round of “This Little Light of Mine”. Wanda then talked about the history of the church and how her mission of continuing the dialogue of equality and understanding. Then we all went downstairs to see a mural that outlines the history MLK and Civil Rights
and then a chance to sit at MLK’s desk.
The whole affair was not so much a tour as it was an experience and only because of Wanda’s passion and energy.
We were so inspired by Wanda’s “tour” that we decided to walk to the far end of town to see the home where MLK and his family lived.
Turns out it is a home that is owned by the church and all of the past pastor’s of the church had lived there. This tour was just as much about MLK as it was about the history of the church itself. The tour guide was a church member who had been a member when MLK was there. So, it was very exciting to hear about her first hand experiences. The most meaningful part of the tour was when we were all standing in the kitchen of the house and she played an audio recording of one of MLK’s sermons when he talked about sitting in that kitchen struggling with the decision to become an official leader of the MIA (Montgomery Improvement Association) which lead the Montgomery bus boycott and other Civil Rights activities.
It was getting late and we still had to drive to Mobile. But on our way back to our car (just a little out of the way) was the Freedom Riders Museum which is housed in the original Grey Hound bus station (original doors and walls). It is a just a one room museum.
We arrived about 10 minute before it closed, and we were the only people there, so the staff person offered to give us a quick version of her tour. So glad she did because Shayna was too tired to read the displays. By the end of the “tour” Shayna said it was one of her favorites. It was another opportunity to learn in detail about another one of the major events of the Civil Rights era.
As we thanked the guide and left the bus station/museum Shayna and I agreed that this day had really been the perfect culmination of our historical journey. We have spent the last 10 weeks traveling around the country learning about Native American history, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and Civil Rights. While we had dreamed about what the trip would be like, we walked (or rather drove) into it with few expectations or pre-conceived ideas which left us open to all of the experiences we encountered. I honestly never imagined how well it all flowed together, how the multiple tours, discussions and experiences coincided and complimented each other, not to mention the incredible amount that we learned along the way. For Shayna, these experiences will provide images and bring to life the history she learns about in school over the next few years. And maybe more importantly, provides some perspective and understanding of these historical topics that she would not otherwise be exposed to in the classroom.