On the morning of the 19th we woke up in Montgomery, Alabama. Because of our studies the past two years on the deep, rich history of black Americans, we haven’t spent an inordinate amount of time on either Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks. Sure, we’ve talked about them and all the kids know their names, but there are so many more heroes of the Civil Rights movement (from both before that “official” time period and after). Because of our freedom to homeschool, we get to take more than the month of February to study America’s history of race relations. We even branched out and read literature featuring amazing stories about black individuals from other countries. Growing up a white girl in the south, I was always incredibly cautious to not say things that I thought would be offensive because I didn’t want anyone to think I was racist. Writing this blog post even gives me a bit of fear that I’ll say something the wrong way and be inadvertently offensive. I even did extensive research to find out if calling a person of color “black” was okay. I have found, and I know that anyone reading this is entitled to their own opinion and preference, that the majority of the people I’ve heard from are happy to be known as black and some prefer that over African American. From what I gather, and I am happy to be corrected (I want to be corrected so I can correctly instruct my children), using “black” or “African American” when it’s needed to distinguish that part of a person’s characteristic are both considered acceptable.
With all of that said, I have learned so much more in the past year or two than I ever learned in school about the struggles our country has had and how those struggles still play a role in our American personality. We have come so far… we have so far to go.
Because we were trying to get to NC as quickly as possible we weren’t able to spend as much time in Montgomery as I wanted to. We drove downtown, parked in front of two meters and put money in both. We walked to the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church.
A quote from the church’s website:
Much of Montgomery’s early civil rights activity – most famously the 1956 Bus Boycott – was directed by Dr. King from his office in the lower unit of the church.
In 1978, the name was changed to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, in memory of its twentieth pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who led the congregation from 1954 to 1960.
My research the day before had shown that it was not open for tours on Mondays so we took pictures on the front porch.
After I got the main picture I climbed the stairs and we all touched the brick. I talked a little bit about why this building is important to us and what had taken place in its offices.
From the same spot we turned 90 degrees and I took a picture of the family with the Alabama State Capital in the background. Dr. King gave his “How long? Not long!” speech on the stairs you can see behind us. I had the speech queued and ready for after our rushed-tour was complete. We listened to the complete speech as we left the city.
While we descended the steps of that important church-building the rain started in earnest. We sprinted back up the hill to the Civil Rights Memorial where we stood around the circular granite table with the names of martyrs engraved. We touched the names and thought of their sacrifice much like we do the names etched on the memorials placed around Fort Hood.
We had planned to tour the inside of the memorial but by that point in the day we were already 90 minutes behind schedule so we stood by the curved wall behind the table and got more pictures.
Matt, who had Anna on his shoulders, didn’t know this but Anna was infatuated by the wall. She had her hand touching it and was grinning from ear to ear.
My heart throbbed at the knowledge that she is so innocent and pure, and that, not too long ago, she wouldn’t have been considered a valuable member of our society. She is a princess because she is a creation of God Himself and every ounce of her DNA was precisely orchestrated. Not one part of her is anything less than priceless and we wouldn’t change a thing about her – not even if we could make her biologically ours – NO! She is who she is because she has the first-parents who created her in addition to the second-parents who were given the honor of raising her! I love who she is and who God used to create her! Her little brown hand touching that stone, oh thank God for the tiny hand that He used to open my eyes to a side of our nation’s story that I had never seen. I thank God she won’t have to endure the trials that Melba Patillo Beals had to in order to go to school. I thank God she won’t have to break the law peacefully to gain access to a seat on a bus. I thank God she won’t have to endure the challenges that the heroes of the Civil Rights era had to endure, and I pray that our family is able to prepare her well for the challenges she will have to face. I thank God He has put strong Black Women in our lives (and in our own family!) who will help us raise her and teach her the things we can’t know as white parents. I trust them to speak to us in love as they watch her grow, to help us spot things we need to be aware of, situations to prepare Anna for… This parenting thing is never done alone, but especially when parenting transracially.
After our fast stop at the memorial we loaded the van and drove about a mile to the spot where Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. On the spot is a museum with an incredible 3D interactive tour but they were closed until the New Year. I can assure you, we will go back one day when we are able to take in all of these tours! I took pictures of the building, the plaque, and the intersection that marks that incredible moment in our nation’s history.
Our drive that day was the best yet. We have the best travelers in the entire world! At 5:22 PM Anna cried for the first time, which was only remarkable in that she hadn’t napped by that point! She had been awake and happy, entertaining her brothers, and watching the country fly by her window. She was amazing!
The brothers were polite and friendly, an improvement from the previous two days. Partly because I think the initial sting of pulling away from “home” was dissipating and partly because we had a family meeting that morning, which put us a little behind schedule.
People! I have missed my kids! I’ll write a separate blog post about that because this one is already too long, but I’m telling you what! I need time with my kids and this PCS season has deprived me of that!
That evening we arrived at Matt’s mom’s house around 9:00 PM, I think. (It’s kind of a blur.) We visited with Grammy and let Anna run wild for a while and then we put her down and settled to watch our first Christmas movie of the season! It. Was. Glorious.
We went to bed tired, happy, and thankful to be spending time with one of our favorite people.