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Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 | Posted in: Worth Checking Out,

You can read about the Civil Rights Movement in a book or you can watch a documentary. But, only in Montgomery can you experience a tangible connection to the people and places that have become national icons. Visit these historic spots and let the emotion take you back.

Midnight in Montgomery
You’re a 25-year-old African American pastor born and raised in the segregated South. But you’ve got different ideas. You have a dream, and in sharing it with others, you’ve risen to prominence in a new movement that’s gaining steam. Some others don’t like your ideas or the bus boycott you’re leading to make your point. It’s just a bit past midnight, and you’re standing in the kitchen of your church’s parsonage. The phone rings, and when you answer you hear nothing but hate and threats on the other end of that line. You’re scared for yourself, your wife and chidren, and rightfully so. You consider giving in. But as you pray for the courage to go on, you get an instant answer from a strong calm voice, and it’s a shot of confidence and purpose that chases the fear away and adds fuel to your fire. Martin Luther King Jr., leader of the Civil Rights Movement in America, experienced this pivotal moment in 1955 in Montgomery, in the little parsonage on South Jackson Street in downtown. Today, you can tour the house that was his home from 1954 to 1960, and stand in the very kitchen where his resolve—the resolve that would go on to change a nation—was solidified.

Say What You Need to Say
It’s a lovely Sunday morning, and the pews are packed. As you look out over the congregation from behind the pulpit, you pause briefly before you begin your remarks. You encourage every person there to be informed, to get involved in the civil issues at hand but to always adhere to the principles of peaceful resistance that you’ve been preaching for years. You can tell they are listening. You can sense their trust. And it gives you hope for the future. The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church was founded in 1877 in a slave trader’s pen and in the mid-1950s, became the breeding ground for the Civil Rights Movement under the leadership of its pastor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visit the church and put yourself behind that pulpit. Would you have the same determination to speak your mind? Stand in the sanctuary and gaze at the mural depicting Dr. King’s journey from Montgomery to Memphis where he would meet his tragic end. The 10-foot by 47-foot work of art skillfully depicts those turbulent times and was painted by Dexter deacon John W. Feagin in 1980.

Have a Seat
It’s been a long day, and you’re tired. You hop on the bus to go home, and there are plenty of empty seats so you sit, happy to be off your feet. When a man demands your seat, claiming it is his to take simply because he’s white and you’re not, something clicks. Unlike similar instances in the past, you make a stand by refusing to stand, and for your defiance of the era’s unjust ordinances, you are arrested. But your actions and your sacrifice don’t go unnoticed; they spark the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which in turn gives birth to the Civil Rights Movement. Montgomery seamstress Rosa Parks will forever be known as the Mother of theCivil Rights Movement for her reaction to a demand on a downtown bus in 1955. Visit the Rosa Parks Museum and view a replica of that infamous bus. Thanks to Mrs. Parks, no matter who you are, you can sit anywhere you want.

Join the Cause
At the Civil Rights Memorial and Center in Montgomery, you can watch as the names of more than half a million people who have pledged to take a stand against hate and work for tolerance in their daily lives flow continuously down a 20-by-40- foot digital display wall. Take the pledge to stand against hate and intolerance and add your name to the wall. Outside the Center, take a minute to touch the water running over the Civil Rights Memorial. This black granite round table is inscribed with the names of the many martyrs and heroes who died during the modern Civil Rights Movement. On a curved granite wall behind the table is engraved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s well-known paraphrase of Amos 5:24, “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

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