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December 14, 2022 / Jim Fenton

Civil Rights Journey Day 9: Montgomery

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Today was the last day of the official tour (we are staying a day longer) and a very powerful day. After breakfast at the hotel, we went to the Legacy Museum, a large and modern museum established by the Equal Justice Initiative to tell the story of Black experience from enslavement to mass incarceration (the current situation). The museum proceeded roughly chronologically from the slave trade, slavery, the Civil War, reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation, and lynchings, to the current disproportionate sentencing and incarceration of Black people. The images and words used in the museum were very strong and intentionally uncomfortable for many. We were somewhat prepared by our recent experience, but the story was very uncomfortable nonetheless.

Following the museum, we traveled to another of Equal Justice Initiative’s projects, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The memorial, which is outdoors, includes hundreds of large corroded iron rectangular blocks that, by county, list the names and dates of lynching victims up to 1950. There was also a section to recognize counties and states that had put up markers recognizing the deaths of these victims. I was struck by the number of markers and names of people who had been lynched; this presentation of the names helps one appreciate the magnitude of the lynching problem.

We then traveled to the studio (for lack of a better name) of Michelle Browder, who led us on our tour yesterday, for lunch and discussion. After lunch, Michelle showed us her artwork, which included large sculptures and an old car that had been intricately decorated by use of a plasma cutter on its body. Her artwork and advocacy were recently highlighted in People Magazine.

We then sat down for a final debrief on our memories of the week before the first of our co-travelers had to leave for the airport.

Afterward, our friends Peter and Liz joined us in visiting the Museum of Alabama, located in the state archives building near the capitol. The museum was well presented, but we were now better equipped to read between the lines of many of the descriptions. For example, commerce often meant slave trade.

After returning to the hotel to clean up, we went to a nearby brewpub, the Tower Taproom. It had quite good pub food, and an interesting array of self-service taps that were enabled using a card they issued at the cash register. The taps measured beer (a good selection, plus a few wines and ciders) by the ounce, and you were charged for the amount you poured.

This article is part of a series about our recent travels to the US South. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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