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Central Alabama to Chattanooga, Tennessee
This morning we planned to visit Montgomery, Alabama, which was the site of the 1955 Bus Boycott that ended the segregation of the Montgomery buses. Some people say that the boycott was the start of the Civil Rights Movement, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Before leaving on this trip, I had purchased the book “If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks” by Faith Ringgold, so that the children would be familiar with the history of Rosa Parks and the bus boycott before we visited the museum. We had read the book before bedtime several times in the past few weeks, including last night. The book has wonderful illustrations, and we have all enjoyed the in-depth story.
Our RV park was only 16 miles south of Montgomery. On the drive into the city, we passed a large billboard that read, “Hyundai: Proudly built in Alabama.” Less than a mile later, we saw the huge Hyundai plant.
The large fleet of Hyundai cars was shimmering in the distant background like an ocean.
Some homes that we passed on the outskirts of downtown Montgomery:
Entering the downtown area:
We easily found the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, which is located in the heart of Montgomery, on the campus of Troy State University.
We first went to the “Children’s Wing,” which had a creative presentation that laid the historical and social foundation for the bus boycott.
Inside the main entrance:
The interactive exhibit involved riding a bus that turned into a “time machine.” Although no no photos were allowed inside the exhibit due to copyright issues, here is Genevieve waiting outside for our “ride” to begin.
A woman named Kahla led us into a darkened room with a large bus that we climbed aboard. The bus driver was a robot named Mr. Rivets. The bus was a “time machine” that traveled between the years 1838 and 1955. Large screens outside of the bus showed scenes and stories from various time periods, to trace the history of unequal rights for African-Americans from slavery to the rigid segregation laws in the South.
The story began in 1838 in Cincinnatti, Ohio, with an African-American boy singing and dancing on the street for pennies. He was singing a song with the term “jump Jim Crow” in it. An entertainer, Tom Rice, saw the performance and got an idea for doing his own performance, with “black face” make up. He toured the United States under the name “Daddy Jim Crow,” portraying African-Americans as foolish and promoting negative stereotypes. The name “Jim Crow” later was applied to statutes that authorized segregation and discrimination against African-Americans.
The time machine bus then took us to the year 1857 in St. Louis, Missouri, and we saw Dred and Harriet Scott, slaves who had fought for freedom in the courts for 11 years on the basis that their owner had taken them to live in the northern United States for a period of time before returning south. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled that Dred Scott and his family, as well as all slaves, were property and not citizens who had any claim to freedom; therefore, they remained slaves even when they were taken to states (or countries) where slavery was prohibited.
We then jumped forward two years to see Harriet Tubman and Henry Brown discussing their efforts to escape slavery and to assist other slaves obtain freedom through the Underground Railroad.
The bus then took us to 1861 during the Civil War, where hundreds of thousands of people died. The North was fighting to preserve the Union, not to end slavery. In 1863, President Lincoln declared an end to slavery, but only in the North. Only at the end of the Civil War was slavery completely abolished. Although the 14th Amendment was passed that prohibited any state from making laws that denied any U.S. citizens their rights, the southern states passed Jim Crow laws to keep African-Americans out of restaurants, stores, schools, theaters, trains cars, and even off of certain sidewalks.
We then zoomed forward to 1892, where Homer Plessy challenged the segregation laws on train cars. Mr. Plessy’s grandmother was African-American, so he was considered “black” even though he looked “white.” He purchased a first-class train ticket and rode on the train; when the conductor discovered that Mr. Plessy was “black,” he had Mr. Plessy arrested. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which shamefully upheld the segregation laws under a “separate but equal” doctrine.
Finally, we fast-forwarded to 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. Ninety years after the end of the Civil War, the city still had stringent laws that excluded African-Americans from restaurants, theaters, schools, and many other places. The buses had “whites only” seats in the front, and all of the African-Americans had to sit in the back of the bus. The bus drivers were notorious for their hostility and rudeness to African-Americans. The scene was now set for Rosa Parks to take her famous stance.
To find out what Rosa did, we had to visit the separate museum next door.
On our short walk outside, we passed the historical marker at the bus stop where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. From this seemingly small act, tsunami sized waves of change had washed over the South. This was hallowed ground indeed.
The museum entrance hall had a bust of Rosa Parks, as well as some artwork.
We discovered that the audio portion of the museum presentation was malfunctioning, and we would have to wait a while.
I saw a brochure on the counter about the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery. The memorial was only a couple of miles away, so we set off to find it.
The Civil Rights Memorial was created to honor the people who died during the Civil Rights movement. It was designed by Maya Lin, the architect who designed the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The Civil Rights Memorial consisted of a circular granite table that had engraved in radiating rows the names, dates, and circumstances of those who had died from 1955 to 1968. Water flowed from a hole offset from the center, and a thin layer of water completely covered the top surface.
Behind the Memorial was a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. on a wall that had a thin layer of water flowing over the entire surface.
I spent time walking slowly around the Memorial and reading all of the names and information. It was very emotionally moving.
Genevieve and Sebastian liked the feel of the water flowing over the table and the background wall.
Montgomery is the capital of Alabama, and we could see the dome of the capital building above the trees.
Here is the front view:
We returned to the Rosa Parks Museum, where the technical difficulties had been resolved.
A woman named LaToya took us through a museum door where we faced with the side view of a bus. The presentation started, and the bus windows filled with projected images of people. Then the story of Rosa Parks unfolded. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded the bus and sat in one of the rows in the middle. The bus made two more stops, where more people got on. Black people were already standing in the back of the bus, and some of the white people had no seats in the front. The bus driver came back and asked Rosa to move. She was tired and said “No.” He said that he would have her arrested, and she said, “You may do that.”
Rosa Parks was arrested, and that sparked the 13-month bus boycott in Montgomery that was led by a young pastor named Martin Luther King, Jr.. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the bus desegregation laws were unconstitutional. The bus boycott was empowering to the people, and started the ball rolling to an abundance of challenges and protests (known as the Civil Rights Movement) against the continuing unfair and unjust treatment of African-Americans.
We all truly enjoyed the Rosa Parks Museum. Genevieve said that she “really appreciated the effort to make it fun to learn history.” She especially liked the time-traveling bus in the children’s wing.
We continued our journey north through Alabama, crossing the river and leaving Montgomery behind.
We passed this water wheel.
Shortly after the large sign that read “America, Love It or Leave It”, came this message:
I remember many “burn in hell” sermons from childhood Sundays, sitting on hard pews in southern churches. It seems that fear will always be a powerful tool to motivate people to action (or inaction).
The Boy Scouts of America offices had a copy of the Statue of Liberty in front.
The terrain around us consisted of rolling hill with lots of trees.
We bypassed Birmingham and made a beeline to Chattanooga, Tennessee. We were going to stop at a place called “Rock City”, which had paths that wound through different rock formations and a waterfall.
Welcome to Tennessee!
We all had fun exploring “Rock City”.
Outside the front gate was a Starbuck’s coffee shop—our first stop.
Rock City was created by Garnet and Frieda Carter, who opened their unique gardens to the public in 1932. Before then, the area had a rich history with Native American inhabitants, a Civil War battle, and many visits by hikers and geologists who came to marvel at the “city of rocks” atop the mountain.
There was a suggested route to take that wound a long way around various rock formations. Genevieve and Sebastian were super-excited about leading the way!
One of the tunnels had a “peek-a-boo” hole in the ceiling. By the time Ben and I entered the tunnel, Genevieve and Sebastian had already figured out the outer path to reach the top of the hole—“Hello down there!”
We hiked through the “Needle’s Eye”:
Here is Genevieve in front of “Mushroom Rock”:
In “Deer Park,” we saw a beautiful white deer:
The white deer were brought to the Rock City Gardens from Western Europe in the 1930’s. They were selected for their “grace and storybook appearance.”
The paths often crossed over and under each other. Here is Goblin’s Underpass:
There was a long swinging bridge that we all enjoyed, aptly named “Swing-Along Bridge”:
We had quite a fabulous view of the Chattanooga Valley:
This waterfall plummeted far below:
We reached the “See Seven States” lookout point, from which one can presumably see Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.
This mountain was the setting for the Battle of Lookout Mountain during the Civil War. In separate diary entries, a Union officer and a Confederate nurse wrote that one could see seven states from this summit.
A patio holds the flags of all seven states.
According to the chart, this view would be looking out toward South Carolina, which is 80 miles away.
We could see homes below:
This eagle was permanently perched nearby:
Sebastian did his "robot" imitation:
Near the summit, we found Josh working at a rock climbing wall. He assisted Genevieve and Sebastian in their efforts to navigate to the top.
Here is Sebastian making his way up to ring that bell!
The kids and I played around:
Here is the home that Frieda Carter called “Carter Cliffs”—it sits at the summit not far from a sharp dropoff into the valley.
Frieda and Garnett built this home four years after they opened Rock City Gardens to the public. Their decision to place their home inside of Rock City reflects their great love of the gardens here, and they desired to treat each visitor as their guest. The home is still used as a private residence today.
Heading down toward . . .
. . . Fat Man Squeeze!
Whew! We all fit through the narrow crevice!
The one-thousand ton “Balanced Rock” was impressive:
Genevieve and Sebastian discovered some gnomes in “Magic Valley”:
This gnome had his “Moonshine Still”:
One of the last walks was through “Fairyland Caverns”.
Frieda Carter was the daughter of German immigrants, and she loved European folklore. Her husband hired a sculptor named Jessie Sanders to create fairytale scenes. In 1947, a set of dioramas lit by black light was completed.
Hansel and Gretel:
Rip Van Winkle:
The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe:
In 1964, Jessie completed a large display called Mother Goose Village.
The scenes were definitely old-fashioned and still retained their quaint charm. Genevieve and Sebastian could barely contain their excitement. They ran from scene to scene and wanted to show Ben and I all of their favorite fairytale creatures.
This waterwheel was near the exit.
We arrived at our campground 18 minutes before the pool closed. I think that the children set a world record for getting into their bathing suits.
After dinner, Ben made a fire—the first one on our trip! We sat by the fire and roasted marshmallows.
Something big flew through the air and landed on my shoe. It was a huge, fascinating bug, with a set of evil looking pinchers in the front.
Another one came to visit later too, and flipped itself on its back.
Tonight Ben gave Genevieve and Sebastian a lesson on playing chess with the “real” rules. They both caught on quickly and had a good time.
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