Hey there Campers,
We wake to a hot day as we journey on to Montgomery, AL. There we went to the Legacy Museum- From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. (Another Cairy Lester’s recommendation.) This museum is built on the site of a former warehouse where enslaved black people were imprisoned, and is located midway between an historic slave market and the main river dock and train station where tens of thousands of enslaved people were trafficked during the height of the domestic slave trade. Montgomery's proximity to the fertile Black Belt region, where slave-owners amassed large enslaved populations to work the rich soil, elevated Montgomery's prominence in domestic trafficking, and by 1860, Montgomery was the capital of the domestic slave trade in Alabama, one of the two largest slave-owning states in America. Montgomery had more slave trading places than they had churches or schools.
There is a statement that said “Slavery is the next thing to hell.” The museum has jailed cells that have holograms in them. One with a woman begging to find her children, one with the kids asking can they get help to find their mother, one with a lady singing a sorrowful song and one with a man.
There were 12 million people kidnapped during the African Transatlantic Slave Trade. Slavery was justified by false notions blacks were inferior. The governor of Mississippi said “as a Christian people it is the duty of the South to keep them in the present position, at any cost and at every peril.” Half of all slaves were separated from spouses, parents and family members.
In 1885 the city built Court Square Fountain. It is very beautiful. However, most people pass by this area and don’t know the history of this location. It was once the location of the biggest Slave Trade Auction.
After the Civil War, slavery persisted in the form of convict leasing, a system in which Southern states leased prisoners to private railways, mines, and large plantations. While states profited, prisoners earned no pay and faced inhumane, dangerous, and often deadly work conditions. Thousands of black people were forced into what authors have termed “slavery by another name” until the 1930. 73% of Alabama state revenue came from convict leasing. Did you know that 13 states have no minimum age for trying children as an adult? Did you know that after slavery black orphan children were branded “criminals” and forced to labor in the fields, farms, mines and railroad in Mississippi? It is stated that the people took off the white robe (KKK) and out on black robes off justice. They are the same people.
9 million black people were terrorized by threat of lynching. During the period between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African Americans were lynched in the United States. Lynchings were violent and public acts of torture that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials. These lynchings were terrorism. “Terror lynchings” peaked between 1880 and 1940 and claimed the lives of African American men, women, and children who were forced to endure the fear, humiliation, and barbarity of this widespread phenomenon unaided. The great singer Billie Holiday wrote and sang a song about "Strange Fruit". This was about lynchings. One of the horrific things about looking at these lynching picture is to see the smile on those people faces. Oh my God where is the compassion?
The Great Migration - In 1900, African Americans constituted nearly a third of those living in Southern states and less than 2% in other regions. They occupied the lowest rung of the Southern racial caste system, relegated to sharecropping, discriminatory Jim Crow laws, extreme poverty, and brutal racial violence. Seeking freedom, more than six million African Americans left the South in a steady, 60-year stream. By 1970, just 19% of the Southern population was black and the African American population in the Northeast and Midwest had grown to 10%. Traveling by car, bus, or train from Louisiana to Los Angeles, Mississippi and Alabama to Chicago and Detroit, Georgia and Florida to New York and New Jersey, the individual acts of African Americans aggregated into a movement. The massive population shift forever changed both those who fled and the places where they sought refuge. Those who migrated still faced discrimination, segregation, and hardship, but used new opportunities to nurture potential in the next generation.
Our family can related to this as most African American can. My mom left Beaumont, TX and my dad Lake Providence, LA. Neither one of my parents ever returned to the South. Lo’s parents left Bastrop, LA. His family would go back for visits.
The museum has a collection of jars of soil from lynch sites. The jars have the name of the person who was lynched and the date of the lynching. It is humbling to see these jars.
This museum is a two part exhibit. You must go to the go to The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. It is located a couple of miles from the museum. The Memorial for Peace and Justice was conceived with the hope of creating a sober, meaningful site where people can gather and reflect on America’s history of racial inequality. EJI partnered with artists like Kwame Akoto-Bamfo whose sculpture on slavery confronts visitors when they first enter the memorial. EJI then leads visitors on a journey from square, created with assistance from the Mass Design Group. The memorial experience continues through the civil rights era made visible with a sculpture by Dana King dedicated to the women who sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Finally, the memorial journey ends with contemporary issues of police violence and racially biased criminal justice expressed in a final work created by Hank Willis Thomas. The memorial displays writing from Toni Morrison, words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a reflection space in honor of Ida B. Wells.
I want to tell you a family story. My dad, George Parker, was from Lake Providence, LA. This is in East Carroll Parish. His nickname was “Pophouse” because he would work with his father at the local soda factory as a kid. When he was 14 years old he went to work for the local pharmacist. Mr. Levy (who was Jewish) had my father become his kids babysitter if he and his wife needed to go out or someone the kids could play with while they worked. My dad would sleep on the screened porch. The only way to get to the porch was through the parents’ bedroom. They trusted him all over their house and even let him use their bathroom inside the house. When WWII came my dad went off to war. He was stationed in several parts of the U.S. His last duty station was Oak Noll in Oakland, CA. The military had a rule that where ever you enlisted you had to go back there. So he had to go back to his home town. The day he got back he saw a white man he knew and was speaking to him and he looked him in the eye and did not call him Sir. This was forbidden for any black man to do. That night he had a visitor. It was Mr. Levy. He told my dad that while it was good for him to be home he needed to leave as soon as possible if he wanted to remain alive. My dad said he clearly understood and caught the bus back to California the next morning. He never ever returned to Louisiana. In 2011 Lo and I took a trip to Louisiana to my dad’s home town to visit dad’s last remaining family in LA. Cousin Sye Parker relayed the same story to me. He took us to the local pharmacy. I got a chance to speak with the pharmacist. He was one of the kids my dad had babysat. He relayed the same story. The man’s father had saved my dad’s life because if he had not been told he would have been lynched. As I passed the East Carroll Parish marker it brought tears to my eyes because my dad’s name could have been there.
From the memorial we toured the Capital. We went to Martin Luther King’s church on Dexter Ave, First White House of the Confederacy, Martin Luther King’s house and the Harris house.
MLK had some pretty profound statements.
Ø Rattle snakes don’t commit suicide. Ball players don’t put themselves out. You got to put them out.
Ø Color is a stigma. White peasants were given land as an economic base. Blacks weren’t given anything
What and interesting, educational day we had. I think Maya Angelou says it all:
Please note that most of the above information came from the EJI - Equal Justice Initiative.
Well, campers until next time.
Lo & Bren