By Jennifer Murch
Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Jennifer Murch participated in the Just Peace Pilgrimage Civil Rights Learning Tour in April, 2023. Her thoughts are broken down into six blogs, spanning all six days of the tour. Read days one and two here. Read day three here.

Just Peace Pilgrimages are new group learning experiences through Mennonite Mission Network. For more information about upcoming pilgrimages, click here.

We spent Day Four touring Montgomery, Alabama, and then driving the route of the Voting Rights March, but in reverse — from Montgomery to Selma.

Our tour guide was Jake Williams. He knew everything — dates, names, stories: my head was spinning! — and he spoke with an enchanting poetic lyricism. I didn't write anything down (I was too intent on listening to write), but I do remember that he said regarding an abandoned town: that it "got lost" — which perfectly encapsulated that sad-grief feeling I got when visiting those once-vibrant neighborhoods.

Photo credit: Rose Shenk.

Everything happened in Montgomery, it seemed. Mr. Williams pointed out the place where Rosa Parks got on the bus and, a couple blocks later, where she was told to give up her seat. "The theaters had just let out," he said, indicating two old buildings on either side of the street, "and the buses were filling with movie goers." Later when we drove through the campus of Alabama State College, he pointed to the building where the civil rights workers had used the college's mimeograph machine to print 50,000 flyers alerting the Black community of the strike that very night.

Jake Williams speaks to the group near a statue of Rosa Parks. Photo credit: Arloa Bontrager.

He took us through the wealthy part of Montgomery where fancy churches stretched for whole blocks. "We Alabamans love our churches," he said. "We live with the Bible in one hand and a pistol in the other." He showed us where the public pool was that the city had closed for five years rather than integrate it, and he pointed out a park that used to be whites-only and told us about the Black boy had been murdered for taking a shortcut through it.

Court Square, Montgomery: where slave auctions were held. Photo credit: Rose Shenk.

At the Southern Poverty Law Center, he pointed to the lone guard standing out front. "It looks like no one's guarding the place," he said, "but let me assure you, there's a whole lotta more protection than just that one guard." And at the capitol building, as he parked the van along the curb for his lecture, he said, "You'll notice no police are in sight, but they are watching me right this very minute. If I so much as go up and touch that Jefferson statue" — alluding to the recent attempts to remove it — "they will be everywhere."

The baby of sixteen children, Mr. Williams was born and raised in Lowndes County, the county between Montgomery and Selma and home of the Black Panther Movement. When the Voting Rights March took place, there were no registered Black voters in Lowndes. A twelve-year-old at the time, Mr. Williams joined the march for one day. As we drove along Route 80 heading for Selma, he kept pointing out which lane of road was the original and which one wasn't (they'd switch back and forth), and the place where the road had narrowed to a single lane and the marchers had to downsize their count to 300, as per the agreed-upon number for that stretch. 

He showed us the spot where he saw Martin Luther King Jr., pointed out the sprawling ranch house set back from the road where his mother had been the housekeeper ("She had to arrive at work early so she could have breakfast on the table when the family woke up"), and he showed us the campsites where marchers slept, explaining what happened to the landowners that allowed the marchers to use their land (one was unable to purchase stock for her store, another had their bank account frozen), as well as the stories of the three murders that resulted because of the march. 

"Five days, fifty-four miles, four campsites, three murders, and three repercussions," he said as we neared Selma. "That's how I describe the march. You ready for the test?"


We briefly drove around Selma (lots of churches, and lots of damage from the recent tornado), and then parked so we could walk across the Edmund Pettus bridge on the same path the marchers took.

That afternoon we drove to Mississippi and stayed at Pine Lake Camp, which was ridiculously gorgeous and packed with wonderful places to play and explore.


As soon as we parked, the kids raced down to the water and took off pedaling, paddling, and rowing. After so many days of driving and listening, we were all in desperate need of fresh air and open spaces.


It was just the thing.

P.S. After writing this post, I discovered a YouTube video of — get this — Mr. Williams giving a tour! I haven't watched all of it yet, but I highly recommend you do (and then report back when you find my mistakes). He's wonderful.

 


 

 

 Related articles

 

 

Mission experience informs development peacebuilding strategiesBloghttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5087/Mission-experience-informs-development-peacebuilding-strategiesMission experience informs development peacebuilding strategiesGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Denmark
For a new dad, the thought of fatherhood is more mysterious than everBLOGhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5084/For-a-new-dad-fatherhood-feels-more-mysterious-than-everFor a new dad, the thought of fatherhood is more mysterious than everGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Here with purpose: Joe SawatzkyQ&Ahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5074/Here-with-purpose-Joe-SawatzkyHere with purpose: Joe SawatzkyGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
“Unity in Diversity”: An interview with Martin Gunawan about his cultural heritageQ&Ahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5079/Unity-in-Diversity-An-interview-with-Martin-Gunawan-about-his-cultural-heritage“Unity in Diversity”: An interview with Martin Gunawan about his cultural heritageGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Anabaptist Witness combines scholarship and global solidarity with Ethiopian issueAnabaptist Witnesshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5077/Anabaptist-Witness-combines-scholarship-and-global-solidarity-with-Ethiopian-issueAnabaptist Witness combines scholarship and global solidarity with Ethiopian issueGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Complex grief of climate changeCreation Carehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5078/Complex-grief-of-climate-changeComplex grief of climate changeGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Here with purpose: Sibonokuhle NcubeQ&Ahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5070/Here-with-purpose-Sibonokuhle-NcubeHere with purpose: Sibonokuhle NcubeGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Privilege shapes our response to the migrant crisisMigrationhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5068/Privilege-shapes-our-response-to-the-migrant-crisisPrivilege shapes our response to the migrant crisisGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Calais
Here with purpose: Tim YoderQ&Ahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5065/Here-with-purpose-Tim-YoderHere with purpose: Tim YoderGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Mennonite mission worker continues to nurture friendships with Shia Muslims in IranInterfaith discussionhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5064/Mennonite-mission-works-continues-to-nurture-friendships-with-Shia-Muslims-in-Iran-Mennonite mission worker continues to nurture friendships with Shia Muslims in IranGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Qom, Iran
Easter calls us to open the doors of our homes and our heartsEasterhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5061/Easter-calls-us-to-open-the-doors-of-our-homes-and-our-heartsEaster calls us to open the doors of our homes and our heartsGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Calais
Celebrating Holy Week in multiple cultures can deepen faithHoly Weekhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4879/Celebrating-Holy-Week-in-multiple-culturesCelebrating Holy Week in multiple cultures can deepen faithGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Redefining the future of serviceBloghttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5047/Are-service-programs-dyingRedefining the future of serviceGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Here with purpose: Henok MekoninQ&Ahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5044/Here-with-purpose-Henok-MekoninHere with purpose: Henok MekoninGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
The heartbreak of the border: A call for compassion and changeBloghttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5043/A-call-for-compassion-and-changeThe heartbreak of the border: A call for compassion and changeGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476

 

 

https://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4913/Civil-rights-learning-tour-recap-day-four

​Jennifer Murch is a blogger and a mother of four who recently participated in a civil rights learning tour through Just Peace Pilgrimages. 

 Related

 

 

Mission experience informs development peacebuilding strategieshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5087/Mission-experience-informs-development-peacebuilding-strategiesMission experience informs development peacebuilding strategies
For a new dad, the thought of fatherhood is more mysterious than everhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5084/For-a-new-dad-fatherhood-feels-more-mysterious-than-everFor a new dad, the thought of fatherhood is more mysterious than ever
Here with purpose: Joe Sawatzkyhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5074/Here-with-purpose-Joe-SawatzkyHere with purpose: Joe Sawatzky
“Unity in Diversity”: An interview with Martin Gunawan about his cultural heritagehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5079/Unity-in-Diversity-An-interview-with-Martin-Gunawan-about-his-cultural-heritage“Unity in Diversity”: An interview with Martin Gunawan about his cultural heritage
Anabaptist Witness combines scholarship and global solidarity with Ethiopian issuehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5077/Anabaptist-Witness-combines-scholarship-and-global-solidarity-with-Ethiopian-issueAnabaptist Witness combines scholarship and global solidarity with Ethiopian issue
Complex grief of climate changehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5078/Complex-grief-of-climate-changeComplex grief of climate change



 

 

Mission experience informs development peacebuilding strategieshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5087/Mission-experience-informs-development-peacebuilding-strategiesMission experience informs development peacebuilding strategiesDenmark
Three decades of transformation in Mongolian mission workhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5085/Three-decades-of-transformation-in-Mongolian-mission-workThree decades of transformation in Mongolian mission workMongolia update
For a new dad, the thought of fatherhood is more mysterious than everhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5084/For-a-new-dad-fatherhood-feels-more-mysterious-than-everFor a new dad, the thought of fatherhood is more mysterious than everBLOG
Mission worker used comforter-making to knot God’s people togetherhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5082/Mission-worker-used-comforter-making-to-knot-God’s-people-togetherMission worker used comforter-making to knot God’s people togetherObituary
Here with purpose: Joe Sawatzkyhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5074/Here-with-purpose-Joe-SawatzkyHere with purpose: Joe SawatzkyQ&A
“Unity in Diversity”: An interview with Martin Gunawan about his cultural heritagehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5079/Unity-in-Diversity-An-interview-with-Martin-Gunawan-about-his-cultural-heritage“Unity in Diversity”: An interview with Martin Gunawan about his cultural heritageQ&A