Monday, March 21, 2011
Sunday, March 20
Journal March 20
We went to a lot of places today. We spent the morning in Atlanta, Georgia. First, we went to Ebenezer Baptist Church. Ebenezer Baptist Church is where Martin Luther King Jr. preached for several years with his father. It was also his childhood church. He lived about 2 blocks from the church. We were supposed to go to church at the usual time of 8 in the morning, but there was a marathon preventing us from going and it was also the 125th anniversary celebration of Ebenezer Baptist Church. So services were going to start at 11 AM. This was an issue since we had a very tight schedule for the day. So we flipped things around and went to the Visitor’s Center and MLK’s tomb first instead of after church.
I really liked MLK’s tomb and the eternal flame. It reminded me of John F. Kennedy’s eternal flame in Arlington Cemetery. MLK’s tomb was in the middle of a reflecting pool and I thought it looked very pretty. Next to the tomb and reflecting pool was Freedom Hall. There was not a lot that was incredibly interesting in my opinion at Freedom Hall. I did like looking at some memorabilia belonging to MLK. They had his suit that he was stabbed in on display; as well as some of his other clothing that he wore on important occasions.
Next, I went to the Ebenezer church’s visitor’s center. That was probably my favorite place in Atlanta. They had a display of Jim Crow laws that you could read. Most people hear about things like lunch counters or buses being segregated, but there was so much more that was segregated. In Georgia, for example, it was illegal to bury a white person next to a black person. And if you did you could get a $500 fine. Even in death, the races could not be integrated. Another Jim Crow law that I found fascinating was the promotion of equality law. It was illegal to promote equality between the races. So not only did you have to follow these ludicrous laws, but if you tried to protest against them, it was illegal.
Next, I went to the church service at Ebenezer. I haven’t been to a church service in about four years or so and I have never been to a Baptist service before. It was a very different experience than what I had been exposed to before. There was dancing and choirs. I really enjoyed the dancing and all of the spectacular vocals.
Another wonderful surprise was that Congressman John Lewis was there. He took part in Bloody Sunday and was on many of the freedom busses. He gave a speech about civil rights and he heard there was a group from Wisconsin attending the service. He mentioned that on one of the rides he sat next to a college student from Beloit College. I thought that was so cool since that is close to my hometown.
We then boarded the bus and went to Birmingham, Alabama immediately after church. This meant we had to skip lunch (which made all of us very cranky) since we were behind schedule due to the mix up with church times.
In Birmingham we went to the Civil Rights Institute. My favorite part as odd as it may sound was the Ku Klax Klan exhibit. I have always seen pictures or television footage, but never any actual artifacts from the KKK. They had one of their traditional white suits. Just seeing it was disturbing and I could sense hatred. Unfortunately, we could not take pictures in the Civil Rights Institute. I also enjoyed seeing some of the segregation related artifacts, including lunch counters and water fountains.
Next, we went to Kelly Ingram Park where there many statues dedicated to some of the events that happened at that park during the Civil Rights movement. The statues were beautifully made, but creepy. There was a statue of a police officer with a dog that was attacking a little boy. You know that these aren’t real, but this happened to some little boy. What did this boy do to deserve to be attacked by a dog? Absolutely nothing if you ask me. He was fighting for his human rights.
They had another statue with three dogs attacking you as you walked through it. I could only imagine what it must have been like for those who were brutally attacked by the police. They also had water hoses that were sprayed on protestors. They had a statue of two small children on the ground being sprayed by hoses. This was heartbreaking to look at. However, I am glad that they have decided to display these events with statues so that future generations can get a taste of what black people went through to get their basic human rights in the South, as well as the rest of the states.
The last place we went to was 16th Street Baptist Church. I wish we could have gone inside because it was such a crucial part of the Civil Rights movement. I still cannot fathom why somebody would want to bomb a church knowing there were children inside. Or just people inside, but it is particularly emotional because four young girls died. I watched a film on the bus about the bombing and most of their bodies were not presentable to have an open casket at their funerals. It was such a devastating and horrific act of violence.
While I knew a lot about most of this stuff, I still learned so much. It is one thing to read about it in a textbook, but to see it in person is a whole other thing. You can feel the emotions that must have been felt when these things were happening. I hope that people who see these artifacts and exhibits continue to pursue social justice and fight for equality for all human beings. I know I will continue to do so.