Before I jump into this blog, I want to share a quick story about Phyllis Brown, a woman I met on the course of this trip. Her older sister, Minnijean Brown, was among the nine who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. P. Brown joined us for two days on the trip and as she jokingly stated I stood at her ear asking questions as she recounted her sister’s actions. As you may know, administrators expelled Minnijean for reacting to the harassment she faced. She continued school in New York living with prominent psychologist and activist Kenneth and Mamie Clark. Phyllis recounted how her sister cried because she wanted to remain in Arkansas. I asked Phyllis how she felt, her response, “I was jealous, she was able to have dinner with Lena Horne.”
After attending the Civil Rights Memorial and Visitors Center (Southern Poverty Law Center), our tour group stopped briefly at the Freedom Ride Museum before continuing to the Rosa Parks Museum. Located on the campus of Troy University, this museum is the only museum in the nation dedicated to Parks. The design of the museum is truly innovative in its layout and use of multiple technologies (i.e. video reenactments, timed tours based on multiple technologies, etc.). There are no cameras allowed inside the museum; therefore, you will have to experience it yourself.
One of the biggest takeaways from the museum pertains to the picture below.
Throughout my historical lessons in elementary and middle school (particularly in the month of February, this picture accompanies Rosa Park’s initial arrest which prompted the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This picture actually depicts Parks second arrest along with eighty other leaders in the Montgomery Improvement Association in February 1956. Also, Parks sat in the Black seated area–she never sat in the white-only section. Lies my teacher told me…
Now, I was aware that there were many others before Parks including fifteen year old Claudette Colvin. Next on my book list is her story (recommended by a tour guide at the museum). I am currently reading civil rights activists and former member of the MIA Ralph Abernathy’s autobiography, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down. Abernathy concluded that Colvin’s actions remained unfruitful due to the lack of civil rights activism in the city during that time. Once I read Phillip Hoose’s book, I will make my verdict.
This museum also features multiple art exhibits on lynchings in America. I am hoping to find more information about the lynching of Bessie McCroy and her two children.
After our morning in Montgomery, we boarded the bus to Birmingham to the city’s Civil Rights Institute, Kelly Ingram Park, and the 16th Street Baptist Church. The city of Birmingham deserves it own separate post.
Until the next post.