Well, Alabama ain’t my home and Lynyrd Skynyrd ain’t my favorite band (except for Free Bird and that in large part because it was the favorite song of a cousin I looked up to). But Alabama is my husband’s mother’s home state. The city of Montgomery in particular. A place he last visited more than 50 years ago when he went as a little boy with his mother and sister to visit his Mamaw (look it up). Recently we took a trip to Montgomery to see if it had changed since my husband’s last and only visit.
But this is the Real South I’m talking about. Sometimes some things don’t change.
We were only in Montgomery for one full day, which we spent driving and walking around, seeing what might spur my husband’s
For example, Chris’s World Famous Hot Dogs.
My husband had his first chili dog there when he still wearing knickers. Like I said, about 50+ years ago. And the place is still there. They still serve chili dogs although my husband complained it wasn’t quite the same as he remembered.
The Capitol building was a high point as was the walk up to it, on Dexter Avenue. The flowers in this photo were not in bloom during our visit, but it was still a sunny day with blue skies and fluffy clouds.
My husband had a vivid memory of seeing a gold star embedded in one of the steps to the Capitol. Something to do with Jefferson Davis, he recalled but being just a child, he was fascinated by the star, not the history. Where exactly on the Capitol steps would it be, he didn’t know.
Inscription: “Placed by Sophie Bibb Chapter Daughters of the Confederacy on the spot where Jefferson Davis stood when inaugurated President of the C.S.A. Feb. 18, 1861.”
Finding the star wasn’t difficult at all once I looked it up on my iPad. And the view from that spot was rather pleasant, although my photography skills are rather lacking.
The view from the Capitol building, down Dexter Avenue. Montgomery, Alabama. May 2015.
Only two blocks before the Capitol building was a modest church. It’s stature smaller than many of the other many churches in Montgomery (and I do mean to use the word ‘many’ twice). We might have just walked by Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was pastor for several years. Services are still held at the church and a small museum is on the bottom floor. I’m not a church-going believer, but this is one church in which I would be happy to seek shelter.
Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, founded in 1877, and first known as the Second Colored Baptist Church. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., served as pastor from 1954-1960.
But in an interesting juxtaposition, on the corner opposite the church, a tombstone-look marker reminded us of Montgomery’s long journey forward.
Yes, in 1942, some people still pined for the good ole days of the nascent Confederacy, when they could sip mint juleps in the shade of their verandas while their slaves toiled to their deaths under the searing Southern sun. If they couldn’t go back in time, they would surely make sure that people knew of their desire.
The juxtaposition didn’t end there. Directly across Dexter Avenue was another marker, a newer one that filled me with hope.
And the strangely moving sight of shoe prints, all kinds, all sizes, stretching from the Civil Rights marker above, across Dexter Avenue, to the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
One image I didn’t capture but still sticks in my mind as clear as the moment I saw it: In the ladies’ room at the Planetarium (yes, Montgomery has a planetarium and a very nice one, too), the soap dispenser had an interesting insignia. The insignia described Alabama as both “The Cradle of the Confederacy” and “The Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement.” It looked something like this, but on a soap dispenser.
This seal represents the South to me, not just Alabama. On the one hand, history and one’s part in it should not be forgotten. “Cradle of the Confederacy.” The marker, commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, directly across from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. These are reminders of Alabama’s history and the role it played in the Confederacy and the Civil War.
Wrongs must be righted. “Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement.” Shoe prints stretching across Dexter Avenue, representing the March from Selma to Montgomery. The marker commemorating that march. These demonstrate that Alabama is moving forward in history, not forgetting its history but (hopefully) refusing to repeat it.
Or am I giving Alabama too much credit? Perhaps Alabama still pines for those days long gone, those days before we knew what what we were capable of doing to each other. Perhaps some think there’s still a chance the Confederacy can be reborn and, for them, “Cradle of the Confederacy” is a source of pride.
What do you think, Dear Reader? Are these odd juxtapositions of historical importance? Or is there some poetry here, like a song suggesting, “it’s complicated.”