Photo by Juanita Ziegler
Hayley Vawter, Editor
While in Montgomery, I experienced a whirlwind of emotions and learned of the horrifying racial injustices black Americans have, and continue to, face in America. I read letters and listened to stories of blacks of the past and in the present who have experience racial inequality or have been affected by slavery or lynchings.
I learned of Rosa Parks and her triumph that began the bus boycotts in Montgomery in 1955. I read police reports and information about the bus boycotts that far exceed what i had ever learned in history books.
I walked through hundreds of hanging pillars at The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and honored the black men, women and children who were victims of racial lynching in the United States; as well as the hundreds, if not thousands, of unknown blacks who were victims of racial terror lynching.
All of these experiences were incredible, and I will forever cherish them and the knowledge they gave me, but one experience in particular has been something I can’t forget about the trip.
After visiting the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, we were tasked with finding lunch before our visit to The Legacy Museum. On this excursion, we stopped at the Court Square Fountain in downtown Montgomery. While marveling at its beauty and listening to the live music that surrounded us, a black man walked up to us.
He wore a white polo shirt and had a huge smile on his face. He introduced himself as Eddie. Eddie began telling me and my friends about the history of downtown Montgomery, he pointed to buildings surrounding us and told us that downtown Montgomery was where the main slave trade ran in the city. The ground we were standing on once had been a place where people were sold and purchased like cattle. That realization was incredible hard to wrap my mind around. He pointed past us and told us that the bus stop where Rosa Parks had been arrested once sat in the square.
Eddie then pointed to the Court Square Fountain and told us about its history. He said that the fountain stands where the main slave-selling block used to be. He told us about the top tier of the fountain and the Greek Goddess, Hebe, who stood upon it.
Eddie then asked us where we were from and why we were there, we told him we were there visiting the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, The Legacy Museum and The National memorial for Peace and Justice and that we were from Missouri. He guessed we were college kids and asked what our majors were.
Eddie also told us that he had been put in prison for 15 years because of a drug possession charge. At the time, we hadn’t visited The Legacy Museum yet, so I had no idea the reality of how exaggerated and extended prison sentences are for black Americans versus white Americans. He told us a little about his life, which I really admired. Even if it was only for 15 minutes, he really positively impacted my day and my trip. Eddie was such a ray of sunshine in Montgomery and I honestly will never forget the conversation I had with him.