It was my goal to blog once a day on the bus tour; however, each day was HEAVY and by the time we made it to our next hotel exhaustion set in. The tour officially ended on June 18th, but I made an effort to journal and keep notes each day. The next series of posts will be my journal entries and research questions I was left with each day.
My journal became my camera.
That morning our itinerary stated the following:
8:30 am Depart from Hotel
8:45 am Charles Sherrod Civil Rights Park
9:00 am Ms Rutha Harris | Albany Civil Rights Institute
11:30 am Lunch at Cater’s Grill
12:30 pm Montgomery Sites | Holt Street Baptist Church | First Baptist Church | Alabama State Capitol Building | Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church|
Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church | Dexter Parsonage | Carr Home
Our first stop was the Charles Sherrod Civil Rights Park, named after a key leader in the Albany Civil Rights Movement. It featured four large stone plaques in a water feature. Various stones/bricks surrounded the plaque holding the names Freedom leaders and quotes.
Following our visit here, we went to our first museum of the day–the Albany Civil Rights Institute. I enjoyed learning more about the local people of the movement, those whose names failed to make it in our history books/lessons during Black History Month. I always reminded myself that this was a movement led by many, not a famous few.
We had the option of entering the museum through the ‘white’ entrance or ‘colored’ entrance. I waited for the moment when our tour guide said proceed and walked my Black self through the white entrance. Again, this was a museum documenting the local Albany Civil Rights Movement; therefore, I wanted to take the time to educate myself on this city’s civil rights struggle. I remember writing the name of Elza “Goldie” Jackson, a local librarian at Albany State College, fired for her involvement in civil rights. Dr. William Anderson, president of the Albany Civil Rights Movement, and his wife Nora Anderson. Danny Lyons, a 21 year old Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), photographer of the movement.
Upon finishing our tour, the group continued to the neighboring Mt. Zion First Baptist Church. SNCC Freedom Singer, Rutha Harris, sat at the podium. Now, this was my second time meeting Harris. I had the honor years ago of having lunch with her when she spoke at my alma mater. I asked politely if she was singing the “Dog Song” to which she responded, “Of course”. She began with the freedom song, “Oh, Freedom” and shared a bit of her story and involvement in the movement. Harris shared the soundtrack of the movement and made us sing and clap along (which was really hard for some people in our group). God bless those who cannot clap on beat. “Without music,” she stated, “there would be no Civil Rights Movement.” Her work continues today as she teaches a new generation of Freedom Singers. The first video is the last snippet of “Oh Freedom” and the next is a bit of the “Dog Song”.
“The Dog Song”
After a morning of history and singing, we moved to lunch at a famous local spot. Now this is where I entered pet peeve #298395, Northerners interactions with Southern cuisine beyond fried chicken. At one point I hit my mother’s favorite response when I asked what something was, “It is food and you gonna eat it and not complain.” I had to explain okra, collards, hot water cornbread, and pig feet.
As far as Montgomery sites, rain ruined the rest of our day and these sites where visited on Day 4.
Thanks for being patience with my post although the trip was a month ago. I will write up the next days as soon as possible.
Until the next post,
Research Questions/Thoughts: Harris listed another member of the original SNCC Freedom Singers–Bertha Gober–who she lost contact with. I will try to search for her whereabouts.
Also curious about reading more into respectability politics and HBCUs during the Civil Rights Movement. Many students and faculty members supported the movement; however, faced severe consequences for their involvement.