Montgomery, Alabama’s state Capitol, was an afterthought when planning our trip. That would have been a huge mistake. We took a civil rights tour. Almost nothing was totally new information. Yet, the totality of it and being in the actual historical spots was quite revolting.
The state capitol building is gorgeous. Then, when you get close, you see a statue of Jefferson Davis on the steps. Why would they be honoring the ultimate symbol of the states who formed the Confederacy and withdraw from the US primarily for the right to own slaves?
Very nearby is Court Square. This is one of the most important locations in US history. It was key in slave trade, The Civil War, and Civil Rights.
Alabama enslaved people population was 460,000 around 1860, the highest in the country. The slave market was at Court Square. Enslaved people were transported on the river, unloaded at the dock, marched up Commerce Street and sold at the market on Court Square.
So many slaves were trafficked through Montgomery that depots were built to warehouse them until it came time for the auction block. Of course it was all legal.
Across from the fountain on Court Square is the Winter Building where the telegram was sent to order the attack on Ft Sumner that started the Civil War.
True the fountain has a history, but wouldn’t you think a memorial might be a bit more fitting?
Also across from the fountain, is the bus stop that Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat thus starting the Montgomery Bus Boycott,
On Dec 1, 1955 Rosa Parks, an African-America, was arrested for refusing to give up her seat in the front of the black section of a bus to a white man. That prompted the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Also, she triggered court cases that ultimately led to the Supreme Court on Nov 13, 1956, ruling that bus segregation was unconstitutional.
On Dec 5, four days after Parks’ arrest, 40,000 black riders planned to boycott the bus system for a day. That afternoon the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was formed. They elected the 26-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. as its leader. The boycott, originally scheduled for a day lasted 380 days.
In 1961 the Freedom riders were attacked and brutalized here.
In 1965 in Alabama, in an effort to register Black voters in the South, protesters marched the 54-mile route from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. The 300-person march swelled to 25,000 people raised awareness of the difficulties faced by Black voters, and the need for a national Voting Rights Act.
(not my photo)
It’s no secret that Alabama has a terrible record of incarcerating black men particularly unfairly. It was new to me that the state had strong financial incentives for doing so. Between 1846 for over 80 years they leased convicts to companies. By the end of the 1800s revenues from convict leasing accounted for 73% of total state income. Wow!
To me it seems like a miracle that there wasn’t more violence.