I must admit I planned this part of my trip around the cheapest route on the Greyhound I could find (It is TEN South African Rand to the Dollar after all!!). I just needed to get east … And north again, obviously. One or two of the places were just names on a map for me. But one of the best things about traveling is being able to connect some distant, distant stories with some real people and actual places and turn words and ideals into relative realities.
And so I found myself in Montgomery, Alabama.
It wasn’t a city name that initially rang a bell with me and I was going to see how quickly I could bypass it altogether. Until I put two and two together (with the help of some googling) … And was able to explore the place that Rosa Parks refused to get up off her bus seat for a white man and inspired a young Minister named Martin Luther King Jr to lead a 13 month bus boycott to end segregation on Montgomery public transport. And let me tell you, I think I had to visit to truly understand how sprawling and spaced out this little Alabama city is to fully understand the determination of its people to stick to bus boycott that lasted longer than a year.
In the meantime, across town (I know, because I walked there) was a completely different little bit of history. One of Montgomery’s other famous daughters was none other than Zelda Fitzgerald, the flapper figure head and tragic wife of F. Scott of Great Gatsby fame. The couple moved back to Montgomery in between Zelda’s mental hospitalization and their residence has been turned into the only Fitzgerald-dedicated museum to date. Let’s just say the combination of the party-loving Fitzgerald couple and southern-style story telling is a complete treat even though the house itself is quite simple.
Next up was Atlanta. I think the beginning of my fascination with the South started with reading Gone with the Wind so I had to go to Margaret Mitchell’s house …
…even though I still struggle to understand the absolute reverence people still hold here for a war fought in the name of slavery, that they lost and ruined them for years to come. A town or museum will offer up Confederate monuments right next to those from the Civil Rights Movement. I have seen one reference to the War of Independence (and commemorating another battle they lost by the way) the whole time I’ve been in the South but you can’t get away from the Civil War.
It has certainly been a journey through the places, museums, books and reading to try and understand. And then seeing reality at the Greyhound station.