307 mile drive to Selma, where for a change from motels I am staying at the haunted St. James Hotel for $79. Except that they didn’t have my reservation, saying that the Internet site link to their booking system had not been working for years. Fortunately they did have a room, Very nice room, but the hotel is quaint, and the wifi connection is so bad that I have to write this post using my cell phone as a hotspot.
Brown Chapel AME Church where the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King Jr. met to organize the march on Montgomery.
The First Baptist Church where the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee met.
And the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge that the marchers tried to cross on Bloody Sunday.
51 miles, less than an hour by car instead of 5 days by foot to Montgomery. Civil Rights Memorial Center opposite the Southern Poverty Law Center remembers those slain during the civil rights struggle, very moving.
MLK’s Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. Wanda was an energetic and friendly tour guide.
And the Alabama Capitol Steps where the Selma-Montgomery march ended. MLK apparently was not allowed to speak from the steps, so they loaded a lectern from the church onto a truck, and he gave his speech from there.
Also the First White House of the Confederacy – very briefly here before Virginia seceded and the Confederate capital moved to Richmond.
Get some miles on by driving 149 miles to a motel in Atlanta. Stopped for lunch.
Long drive tomorrow.
Then another 467 miles of just plain driving to Virginia. Just driving, a little sad now that the vacation is almost over. It’s been a fun ride. Tomorrow I will see where General Lee surrendered and ended the Civil War, and then drive home. Debbie will come home from Ireland, we will pick Ben up from camp, and we will be together again.
Appomattox Court House, the final surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Lee was attempting to retreat from Richmond to regroup with forces from the Carolinas, but was pressed hard by Grant and eventually surrounded with no source of supply. Minor resistance continued, but this is generally considered the end of the Confederacy. The Civil War cost some 620,000 lives.
Then 421 miles to Home Sweet Home.
It’s been a long fun ride. 2,839 miles, 60 gallons of gas. But did I find America?
I feel I did. The America I found talking to so many friendly people is full of people who are striving to be something more. From the teenager at Shiloh who had dreams of becoming an English teacher in a foreign land, to the musicians and producers in Nashville and Memphis, to Elvis, who given outlandish wealth first saw to the comfort of his parents, the best of America is about striving for something better.
But I also found evidence still of America’s original sin. The news was full of the events of police killings and revenge killings. And when a performer at the Grand Ole Oprey sang Over the Rainbow to express her sadness, she got heckled from the audience “that had better be about Texas!”
Every establishment I went into seemed to be either all white or all black. Different music, different churches, different restaurants, two races still segregated.
I think there is still hope, there is much to be said for the best of what makes America. But at some point we must acknowledge that black lives matter.