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As our trip was coming to an end, we left Alabama and traveled to Atlanta, Georgia where we toured the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site.  While entering upon the site, we toured an exhibit entirely dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr.  Split into different sections, the exhibit displayed not only an overall timeline of the major events in his life, but a detailed description of the how he helped shaped the movement through the different stages of the movement. The display not only shared his influences, but also described his childhood. Martin Luther King, Jr. had once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” It was interesting to learn that his father had rigorous demands for memorization of the scriptures.

 It also seemed that after 1965 we were less informed about the events that took place. Thus, the section, “Expanding the Dream”, was one of the most interesting sections, as we learned about the white supremacist groups in Chicago and the death of James Meredith in the March Against Fear, in which he was shot on the second day.  Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

 While the exhibit was information orientated, there were other sections such as the letters from elementary students as well as Dr. King’s personal items that moved us. Thus, my visiting Freedom Hall and viewing both Dr. King and Coretta King’s personal items, I was better able to step back and appreciate the impact both had had. Also, the display of Gandhi was fascinating. One quote had been, “I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as the hill.” It was easy to see where Dr. King got his influence and his non-violence notion. 

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Rosa Parks Museum

As we look back on the civil rights era, we tend to admire great leaders, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, for its success. However, it is often the small acts of individuals that create revolutionary movements. One such act consisted of a black woman who refused to give her seat up on a bus.  This woman is known as Rosa Parks.

During our trip, we visited the Rosa Parks Museum and learned of the exceptional woman who exemplified all those that had ever been oppressed. She began a movement by taking a stand.  The museum allowed us to take a step back in time, as they reenacted the events of December 1, 1955 when Rosa Parks would not give up her seat after there were not enough seats for all the white riders. After being threatened with being arrested, she simply stated, “You may do that.” rosa-parks-dickson1dec05

Her arrest led to thousands of African Americans boycotting and deciding not to ride the buses and the beginning of the Montgomery Improvement Association.  With the boycott, bus companies began to worry, as they lost almost three grand each day. The black community stated three conditions: the bus drivers should treat them with respect, the policy “First come, First serve” be followed, and black bus drivers should be hired to work in the black neighborhoods.  However, no agreement was reached.

Having studied about individuals willingly being arrested for their cause, it was the mass arrest on February 12, 1956 that stood out among the rest. During the day, eighty-nine individuals, including Dr. King, Rev. Abernathy, and Rosa Parks herself, went to the courthouse in their “Sunday’s best” and stood outside, showing that they weren’t afraid to be arrested. After being taken in, 250 more followed and accordingly, were arrested.  However, with limited space, they were let go.  It wasn’t until December 21, 1956, known as Victory Day, when Dr. King with five others were finally able to ride in the buses, after the segregation was ruled as unconstitutional.

As our visit to the Rosa Parks Museum was coming to an end, Bill Clinton’s State of the Union was being played.  It was a fitting ending to a great tour, as Rosa Parks was able to “sit wherever she wanted to.”

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