Outside the Dexter Parsonage Museum, MLK’s home in Montgomery.
Matt and I were headed to Montgomery, Alabama to see the abandoned, dilapidated set from Big Fish. I was planning a weekend for us in Montgomery and started to worry that there wouldn’t be much to see. I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was the Big Fish set still cool to walk through, but Montgomery is steeped in civil rights and civil war history.
What is unique about the civil rights component is that some of the people living in Montgomery today were alive and in Montgomery during the 1950’s. Some knew Martin Luther King and lived through the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The civil rights history in Montgomery isn’t that old. I’d say now is the time to visit, because once the sites are actually history and not told from a firsthand experience, a piece of the story will be lost.
In a couple decades, you could go to the Dexter Parsonage Museum, MLK’s house, and get a great tour about his story in Montgomery, but probably won’t hear Dr. Shirley Cherry’s, our guide at MLK’s home, story. She introduced herself as Dr. Shirley Cherry, emphasis on the doctor. She relayed the following story. I’ll try to retell it as best I can from my memory, but her intonation, mannerisms, and inspiring tone will be missed in this tale. For that you have to go take a tour of MLK’s house. Get on a tour with her and the whole trip will be worth it.
She said she was putting an emphasis on the Doctor (a PH.D in history, if I remember correctly) because she was never supposed to have an education. She grew up in Montgomery during segregation and she had to take the bus passed three white schools to get to her black school. Her grandmother didn’t think that was right, so she started a school for black students in her barn. Cherry graduated valedictorian from her Grandmother’s school and went to the University of Rhode Island. But to pay for college her mother had to take a job at a local dry cleaner. The Klu Klux Klan used to come in and drop off their robes. Cherry’s mother had to clean them. (Pause to feel injustice and disgust.) Her mother said, “The good Lord, he brought those Klan members into that laundry shop to help fund my daughter’s college fund.” (Pause to be impressed with Dr. Shirley Cherry’s mom.)
If ever you need a reminder in how you have control over your situation by altering your own perspective, you need to go and talk to Shirley Cherry and get the MLK house tour.