Monday, September 03, 2007

Alabama History Tour

Alabama State Capitol

On our way back from a recent trip to Tennessee we made several minor detours in Alabama so I could visit some historical sites that I have always wanted to see. The first stop was the Alabama State Capitol, in Montgomery, where I took a self-guided walking tour of the grounds and building.

According to the WPA Guide to Alabama: "The State Capitol on Goat Hill, at the east end of Dexter Ave., is constructed of brick covered with stucco and patterned after the National Capitol. It ranks among the most beautiful of the Greek Revival capitols built during antebellum days."

The building was dedicated in 1847 but was burned two years later and rebuilt in 1851. It was here in January 1861 that the Secession Convention convened and one month later representatives of six seceding states chose Montgomery as the provisional capital of the Confederate States of America (it moved to Richmond, VA four months later).

On February 18, 1861 Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President of the Confederacy in this building and in 1886 helped lay the cornerstone of the Confederate Monument located on the north lawn of the capitol grounds.

Capitol Rotunda

Unlike so many other public buildings these days there were no security checks or a police presence of any kind upon entering this magnificent building. I found the Alabama State Capitol to be a friendly place with a courteous and welcoming staff who were eager to help visitors enjoy this hallowed space.

Jefferson Davis

Just across the street from the State Capitol grounds is the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King was the pastor during the turbulent civil rights era in Montgomery. In many ways this simple 19th century building was the spiritual and moral epicenter of a revolutionary movement in American history. Many of the most famous and important events of that period occurred in this city, including the bus boycott instigated by Rosa Parks in 1955 and the famous voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

I had always thought that the Dexter Ave. Baptist Church was located in a segregated section of Montgomery and was quite surprised to find it located directly across the street from the state capitol building. This congregation was way more strategically located to stir up change than I had ever imagined. That's why historical pilgrimages are so important to students of history. You can only learn so much from reading books, you've got to get out there and smell the ghosts.

Front of Dexter Ave. Baptist Church

The Montgomery bus Rosa Parks made history in.

We made another stop in the small and decaying town of Georgiana in southern Alabama. This is where we exit the interstate to make our way over country roads into the panhandle of Florida. Connie said she saw a sign that pointed to the Hank Williams boyhood home. At first I thought she had misread the sign because I had never heard anything about him living in THIS town.

We got gas and I turned around and headed back in the direction of the sign. After a couple of left turns we came upon the house all right, located on a very forlorn block in a run down neighborhood. Across the street was a disheveled and derelict old house that was at one time a museum dedicated to Hank but had since fallen on hard times. We peered in through the dirty windows at piles of mementos and junk and then realized that it was time for us to split, mostly for our personal safety. It was just not a very nice neighborhood.

The Hank Williams boyhood home

I think you can confidently skip this historic home the next time you find yourself in this neck of the woods and enjoy these pictures from the safety of your computer screen. The whole thing looked and felt like a feeble attempt by the state tourism authorities to breathe a little economic life into the terminally ill patient that is Georgiana, Alabama.

I will say that we did see some of the lowest slung, boxer underwear revealing, pants on the young males in town that we had observed on the entire trip. Now that's a real point of civic pride.

Downtown Georgiana, Alabama

1 comment:

Beth said...

I teach 4th grade and was wondering if it would be okay with you if I used some of your Alabama history photos in a preview slide show for my students of some of the things we'll be studying this year. Please let me know if this is acceptable to you. You may respond to
Beth Cofield