Monday, March 17, 2014

The original Road Rebel (no, not James Dean)

When we get T-shirts made to commemorate our road trip, the front side will say Road Rebels. We came to consensus on that name after MUCH deliberation. (One of the facts of life on the road is ample discussion time). So it was fitting that we spent some time in Montgomery, Alabama. That's where two events took place during the civil rights movement. One quite famous, the other less so, which is too bad.

Most of us learn in school that in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus. True enough. What we learned at Rosa Parks Library and Museum, and what makes the story even richer for me, is that, contrary to what I had always heard, Mrs. Parks was legally entitled to keep her seat. The belief that Montgomery's laws required Black riders to move back when the Whites Only section was full was just that--a belief. Still, she told the driver "You may do that" when he threatened to call police. (That's my favorite moment in the whole ordeal. Calling his bluff! She can take the weight just like those convicts on The Wire.) Her arrest gave local activists a rallying point, and the bus boycott began within days. Such amazing organization, to get carpools going and 35,000 flyers printed. For over a year the boycott lasted. And all the NAACP demanded at first was a more humane system of segregation, just hatred with a smile. But the bus company refused, so the demands were upped to full integration of the buses. Which came via a Supreme Court order in 1956.

I showed the boys most of "Eyes on the Prize" episode 1, to prep them for Montgomery. If you have never seen it, maybe you should. Watch it here

Of course, the boycott matters not just for its immediate success, but because it helped launch MLK's career as a leader of non-violent social protest. We toured the church he pastored for 5+ years, which is right next to the Alabama state capital (that's one theory for why it never got bombed, even though almost every other Black church in the city did. As did King's house.)

The church stands just to your right as you look up the hill one block to the capital

to be continued after some sleep…

Updated March 18: I'm back! A stormy night here in Lakeland, Florida had us switch from the campsite we had reserved to a hotel. Glad we did. Feeling refreshed, plus the Days Inn conti brekky had cinnamon toast THAT YOU ACTUALLY PUT IN THE TOASTER (sorry no photo). Also excited because...

Emmett turns 8 today!

He's getting big, folks
He is extra-excited because yesterday we surprised the boys by taking them to Legoland Florida. We scored super cheap homeschooler tickets and arranged to meet up with a fun family we had met in Texas. Their boys are same age as ours.

Desi couldn't wait until the photo was taken to start running in

Yes, it's made entirely of Legos

OK, back to Montgomery, and back to buses. A less famous, but even more dramatic, event in American history also took place on a bus in Montgomery. I had known about the Freedom Rides, even taught about them in class, before we got to Montgomery. But I gained a new appreciation for those brave riders when we went to the old bus station where they got attacked. Only some of the original station is left, but it doesn't take much imagination to see where the mob chased and beat these kids. Once again, just like Parks, the riders did what was legal (ride a bus, sit where you want) and provoked an over-reaction that led to positive changes. 

Again, I had prepped the boys by showing and discussing Eyes on the Prize. (gotta run, will update later today!)