State Capitals (II): Montgomery, Alabama: first Confederate capital (1861), bus boycott (1955), MLK speech (1965)
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Today’s Topic — State Capitals (II): Montgomery, Alabama: first Confederate capital (1861), bus boycott (1955), MLK speech (1965). Located on the Alabama River in the central part of the state, Montgomery is named after an American general of the Revolutionary War who died at age 31 leading an unsuccessful invasion of Canada in 1775. Briefly, the capital of the Confederacy, Montgomery is perhaps most famous for the bus boycott of 1955 that followed the arrest of Rosa Parks, and for the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965.The racial composition is 57% black, 36% non-Hispanic white, and 4% Hispanic. The largest employers are the Maxwell-Gunter AIr Force Base (12,280), the state of Alabama (9500). and Montgomery public schools (4524). This is the second in a series on state capitals that I have never visited. The idea is to get out of the Boston bubble. Never having driven cross-country, I thought it was time to do so virtually. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
DEXTER AVENUE BAPTIST CHURCH: Marin Luther King, Pastor, 1954–1960
1. It was from his office in the basement that King organized the Montgomery bus boycott that followed the arrest of Rosa Parks in 1955.
2. The boycott lasted until December of 1956 when the Supreme Court declared segregated busing to be unconstitutional.
3. It did so by affirming the judgment of the US District Court which had decided the case by a 2 to 1 vote in June.
THE SELMA TO MONTGOMERY MARCH, 1965 AND THE “HOW LONG/NOT LONG SPEECH”
1. “Now it is not an accident that one of the great marches of American history should terminate in Montgomery, Alabama. (Yes, sir) Just ten years ago, in this very city, a new philosophy was born of the Negro struggle. Montgomery was the first city in the South in which the entire Negro community united and squarely faced its age-old oppressors. (Yes, sir. Well)”
2. “They told us we wouldn’t get here. And there were those who said that we would get here only over their dead bodies, (Well. Yes, sir. Talk) but all the world today knows that we are here and we are standing before the forces of power in the state of Alabama saying, “We ain’t goin’ let nobody turn us around.” (Yes, sir. Speak) [Applause]”
3. “I know you are asking today, “How long will it take?…..”How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
NB: The speech was given on March 25, 1965 on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol, where 25,000 protestors were gathered. The march led directly to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on August 26th. The Governor at the time was George Wallace, whom King called “perhaps the most dangerous racist in America today.” Wallace’s philosophy was summed up in his 1963 inaugural address, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” As it turned out, he found Jesus in the late 1970s, renounced his segregationist past, and asked for forgiveness.
“I was wrong. Those days are over and ought to be over.”
FIRST CAPITAL OF THE CONFEDERACY — February to May 1861
1. The House above is dubbed “The First White House of the Confederacy.’
2. Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his family lived there for 3 months.
3. The capital then moved to Richmond, Virginia.