Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement



Living in Montgomery has been at times a strange experience. You know from my introduction that I lived away from the area for many years. When I returned, it was refreshing to see the city embracing its history now rather than slinking away from it like a dog with its tail between its legs who knows it’s angered the master.

I was downtown this week and stopped by the Civil Rights Memorial. Designer Maya Lin, who also designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at age 21, says of her work, “This is not a monument to suffering; it is a memorial to hope.” The black granite wall with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote is flanked by a circular slab of granite carrying the names of both martyrs and those who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and who crossed paths with those determined to end the Civil Rights Movement.

Some of the names are very familiar like Emmett Louis Till, a Chicago teen murdered in Mississippi, and the four little girls killed in Birmingham when a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Others like Willie Edwards Jr. of Montgomery, forced by four Klansmen to jump off a bridge and into the Alabama River, are random victims and lesser known perhaps. The Rev. James Reeb, a Unitarian minister from Boston, lost his life on a Selma street after marchers were turned away from the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Sadly, random, but no less deserving of remembrance.

On the eve of a day devoted to remembering Dr. King and those he led and inspired, I am reminded that those who love justice cannot rest easy. We must continue the movement for we are not yet there on our journey to Equality.

photo ©2007 by Sheila Noblitt

4 comments:

Marion said...

I got those tears I get when something touches me deeply when I read this, Sheila.

A beautiful reminder against apathy!

Sheila said...

Marion, thanks for the comment. The days of segregation were a sad and mean time for America.

RandyW said...

I too, walked by the Civil Rights Monument this week, after I left in the middle of the inaugural ceremonies, having heard about all the petty politicians I could stomach. Lately I've been enjoying (perhaps not the right word!) a little booklet called Touched by History: A Self-Guided Tour to Civil Rights Sites in Central Alabama (Special Montgomery Edition, available at your local bookstore, if your local bookstore is Capitol Books. As the title suggests, this is a reprint of the Montgomery section from a larger work; the reprint benefits the Montgomery Improvement Association, founded in December 1955 to organize the bus boycott.

Sheila said...

I'll have to check it out. I love Capitol Books. When I was a kid, it was located downtown near the movie theaters and I spent many an afternoon looking through the cramped aisles.