Weather: Sunny to partly cloudy, mid 70s
Location: Lat 32.37111 Long -86.30888
Montgomery is full of historical sites. It was selected as the first capital of the Confederate States of America, as well as, a major center of events and protests in the Civil Rights Movement, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Selma to Montgomery marches.
Our first stop was to the first “White House of the Confederacy” It was designated as the executive residence by the Provisional Confederate Congress on February 21, 1861. Jefferson Davis and his family lived here until the summer of 1861 when the Confederate Capital was moved to Richmond VA.
Directly across the street is the Alabama State Capital complex which is a huge marble and granite building, that is spotless and impeccably maintained. On the grounds are several bronze statues, and an eternal flame dedicated to the Alabama War Veterans.
The front of the Capital faces Dexter Avenue. The street was named in honor of one of the cofounders of Montgomery, Andrew Dexter. Along this street moved the inaugural parade of Jefferson Davis when he took the oath of office as President of the Confederate States of America on February 18, 1861. Dixie was played as a band arrangement for the first time on this occasion.
A block away from the Capital, on the corner of Dexter Avenue and N. Decatur Street is the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. served as a pastor from 1954-1960. And where the Montgomery Bus Boycott was organized in the basement on December 2, 1955.
King lived less than a mile away on S. Jackson Street in a small single-story wood clapboard house.
One block to the south on Washington Street is the Civil Rights Memorial. The memorial was created by the same designer who created the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Maya Li. A circular black granite table records the names of the martyrs and chronicles the history of the movement in lines that radiate like the hands of a clock. Water emerges from the table’s center and flows evenly across the top. On a curved black granite wall behind the table is engraved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s well-known paraphrase of Amos 5:24 – “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Across the street on the corner of Washington Street and N. Hull Street are the Dowe Houses. The three houses are a representation of what exited here in the 19th Century. The main family residence, dating from 1863, was originally designed as an Italianate-styled raised cottage. But in 1908, the high porch and twin curving stairs was replaced by the two-story columned portico. Descendants continue to live in the home for almost 150 years. The last member of the family occupied the house until his death in 2007. The second house was built in 1885 by the original homeowner’s widow. The third home was built in 1890, on Hull Street, just behind the original main residence.
About five blocks away on S. Court Street is the Freedom Rides Museum. A historic Greyhound bus station that commemorates the anti-segregation protest led by John Lewis on May 20, 1961. Their purpose was to test the court case Boynton vs. Virginia declaring segregation in bus terminals unconstitutional. Upon arriving in Montgomery, their police escort disappeared, and an angry mob of over 200 Klan supporters attacked and injured them. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy was so enraged that he sent 450 U.S. Marshalls to Montgomery.
Our final stop of our day in Montgomery was to the corner of Montgomery Street and Molton Street where on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to vacate her bus seat. Park’s arrest galvanized the black leaders to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott, from the basement of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, for December 5, the date she was to appear in Municipal Court.
We had a great day learning some of the history of Montgomery and look forward to spending more time learning about this area next weekend.