Witness to Injustice: Montgomery, Alabama

Protest Buddies in action at the Alabama State Capitol building

Hello all,

Recently I got to go on a really eye opening trip to Montgomery, Alabama. It was a huge learning experience for me so I hope you enjoy my account of the trip.

We went to Montgomery, Alabama for the American Federation of Teachers Civil, Human, and Women’s Rights convention. My mother goes to many of these conventions, and sometimes I get to go along. I didnt want to pass up a chance to go to Alabama, figuring I would probably never visit on my own.

I went in pretty much blind. Little did I know how much Montgomery would affect me.

This is a painting of Dr King’s church, just a block from the Capitol Building. They organized the Montgomery bus boycot from the basement of this church.

Montgomery is full of amazing civil rights history. We saw the Rosa Parks Museum and the bus stop where she caught the bus. There is a beautiful Civil Rights Memorial that tells the story of the people who sacrificed their lives at that time.

The conference had many good speakers on the subjects of teaching and civil rights. Even though I am not a teacher, I think I still got something out of it.

The best part of the conference was a panel discussion with elders who were present during the time of the civil rights struggle. These are my notes from the speakers.

When the conference was over, we had an extra day to see the sights of Montgomery. This was when things got really heavy.

The first stop was the Legacy Museum. It traces the legacy of slavery from the transatlantic slave trade, through the domestic slave trade, then through segregation and mass incarceration. It was truly heart breaking to see humans treated like that, and disturbing to see the problems continuing through our present day.

This museum was created through the efforts of Brian Stevenson, who runs the Equal Justice Initiative. You can donate to this very fine cause here. I already donated.

The Memorial for Peace and Justice memorializes victims of lynching in the south. Each county had a marker with the names and dates of known lynchings. It is one of the most profoundly sad things I have ever seen.

These two sites are so well designed. They are challenging and difficult to see, but necessary. This is part of our history. I think that exposing yourself to this makes you more vigilant against injustice in the future.

There were good things about Alabama also. After the museum and memorial, we got good soul food, and saw the F Scott Fitzgerald Museum. Everyone was very friendly and polite. But man, they have some terrible history.

As we walked numbly back to the hotel, my mind was buzzing with anger and sadness and helplessness. Words can’t express it. But I already was picturing the painting I was going to make.

Acrylic painting inspired by my trip to Montgomery Alabama. The fountain depicted is in downtown Montgomery. It stands on a site where humans were sold into slavery.

Seeing all this was…theres so many words for it: frustrating, heartbreaking, infuriating. It was difficult. This was not a vacation. But maybe it made me a better person.

As I try to travel and experience life more, this helps me remember to look off the beaten path. I would have never guessed I’d have a life changing experience in Alabama. Its a place I have probably discounted offhandedly a million times. But it really taught me something.

If you get a chance to go to Montgomery, do it. It’s worth taking a couple days and experiencing for yourself.

Thank you for reading. Please make any comments in the comments section. I would love to hear from you.

-Sam C Laughlin, SCLeccentric