As you may know, the Boyer family might be starring in one of the fall episodes of America's Funniest Home Videos. I just received an e-mail from the Video Coordinator at ABC...and I'm waiting for her to return my call. In that spirit, I thought that you might interested in seeing the video before we all become famous:)
I'd like to use this blog as a forum to talk about great books. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, and I catch up on a A LOT of reading over the summer. Here are some of the books I've read, and I'd love to hear what you are reading, too:
Home Game by Michael Lewis: great writer, great book...should be a must read for dads
The Associate by John Grisham: one of my favorite writers. He is a supremely talented storyteller, but, i'll be honest with you, his books start to blend together after a while.
Miracle Ball by Brian Biegel: AWESOME baseball book about the journey to find the "shot heard round the world" (i.e. Bobby Thompson's home run ball in 1951 against the Dodgers).
Heart of the Game by S.L. Price: This is, quite honestly, one of the best books that I've ever read. Be careful, its an emotional book that will probably bring tears to your eyes.
The Headmaster by John McPhee: This should be required reading for independent school teachers. Its an extraordinary story about an extraordinary man who literally built one of America's most prestigious schools from scratch.
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown: I read this book at the beach and couldn't put it down. I think it was better than The Da Vinci Code...Brown is a master storyteller.
Columbine by Dave Cullen: Think you know what happened at Columbine High School? Think again. If you want to know the real story instead of the one crafted by the media, this book is a MUST read.
Family Values, How schools can cope with the crisis in child-rearing by Rob Evans: This book was required reading for all members of the faculty at PDS (and Dr. Evans will be visiting campus in a few weeks). Its not an enjoyable read, but its definitely informative for teachers and parents.
The Audacity of Hope & Dreams from my Father by President Barack Obama: I couldn't get through either of these books. President Obama writes eloquently, but, quite honestly, I just didn't find the books interesting enough to complete.
Currently reading October Men by Roger Kahn: book about the dysfunctional Yankees teams of 1977 and 1978. Great read, sort of the book version of ESPN's "The Bronx is Burning."
I had one of those "my children are growing up too fast" moments yesterday. I'm sure that its something all parents experience, but it definately hits you hard when you are in the moment. As frustrating as it is at times to have three young children, I wouldn't trade the experience for the world...I am truly blessed to be a parent. Yesterday, however, I felt a wave of emotions that I wasn't expecting. First is was Rylee. I felt tears coming on as I was in Wal-Mart buying "big girl" underwear for my 2 year-old daughter. Before I know it, a guy will be coming to our door wanting to take her out on a date. I still remember the day she was born like it was yesterday. She followed this big event by giving up her pacifier last night forever...geez, too much to handle in one day!! Michael had a big day, too. He went to the doctor for his pre-Kindergarten physical. My little man who I met at 9 months old is headed to Kindergarten in a few short weeks. I can't imagine the emotion I will feel when he puts on his first day of school clothing and his new backpark and goes to school for the first time. Zachary continues to impress me with his intellect. The complexity of our conversations deepen every single day, and he's fast approaching his teenage years. No longer do I think of him as a little boy...he's a young man who'll be taller than me in a few short years. I'm not quite sure why I decided to write about this. I'm really putting myself out there as a sappy dad, but I'm just so blessed to be a father. Writing this actually makes me feel better, especially knowing that I was able to capture this moment when it happened.
Pulled into the driveway at 5pm...what an amazing trip. Here are some fun statistics:
Miles Driven: 2,672 Gas: $318.66 Restaurants Visited: 20 IHOP (2), Cracker Barrell, Waffle House, Ruby Tuesdays, Hard Rock Cafe, TGI Friday's, Ground Zero Blues Club, J Alexander's, Noshville Cafe, Chick Fil A (3), McDonald's (1), Subway (2), Memphis Redbirds Stadium, Montgomery Biscuits Stadium, Western Sizzlin', Papa John's, Olive Garden, Blues Street, Joe's Crab Shack, Pizza Playland, KFC...in other words, failed miserably in my attempts to sample the local cuisine. Favorite Meal: IHOP for Breakfast!! Traffic Citations: ZERO!!! Favorite Hotel: Hotel Indigo (Nashville) Least Favorite Hotel: Jameson Inn (Selma) Nicest People: Memphis, TN Favorite City: Memphis, TN Most Unusual Traffic Patterns: Montgomery, AL (three consecutive one way streets going in the same direction) Ate for the 1st time and liked it: Fried Catfish Ate too much and no longer like it: fast food Overrated foods: BBQ Nachos Underrated foods: Grits and Kentucky Fried Chicken Best Museum: Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery Saw too many: vanity license plates
I'm filled with a mix of emotions today, the final day of my Civil Rights journey. It will not be my last post because I'd really like to include some reflections a few days after I return...but there is a certain finality to today's post. I visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, a beautiful complex that includes a museum, Dr. King's boyhood home, final resting place, and the Ebenezer Baptist Church. It is a wonderful tribute to a special American, one of our greatest leaders of the past 100 years.
I was personally touched by the visit to Dr. King's boyhood home. Reading stories about how he liked to run around the backyard and play baseball in the street showed a personal side of Dr. King that I never thought about. He's always been a "larger than life" figure to me. Its quite amazing how the "stars aligned" and allowed for an eloquent leader to rise to national prominence. King himself noted the surprise he felt: "When I went to Montgomery, Alabama in 1954, I had not the slightest idea that I would later become involved in a crisis in which non-violent resistance would be applicable." Quite honestly, Dr. King's story immediately made me think of Malcolm Gladwell's newest book, Outliers. Special opportunities arose that were well-suited for Dr. King's extraordinary talents. This is not to say that Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn't an amazingly gifted American. He certainly was, but he also took advantage of an opportunity that fit perfectly with his talents.
Since I'll be leaving for home tomorrow, I thought a lot today about whether a CRM tour should start here or end here. By ending here, I don't want to give the impression that I believe the CRM ended when Dr. King died because it definitely didn't. I'm a firm believer that the CRM is an ongoing struggle that has manifested itself in many different ways throughout the World. It is no longer just a racial struggle, but a much broader one. I'm not one to use the term "civil right" lightly, but there are numerous issues today that many people believe are civil rights issues. Do you believe that marriage, adequate healthcare, and a good education are "civil" rights?
Thank you for joining me on such a wonderful journey. I really cannot put into words how thankful I am to the Eichenbrenner family for providing me with this opportunity of a lifetime.
What a beautiful day in Birmingham. Blue skies and a high of 80 degrees. A "cool" summer day in the South for sure. I visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, strolled through Kelly Ingram Park, and took pictures outside the 16th Street Baptist Church. Together they represent a poignant tribute to one of the greatest victories of the CRM...as well as one of the greatest tragedies. While almost all Americans are familiar with the church bombing that killed 4 young girls attending church services, most have no idea (me included) that two young boys were also killed on the same day. 13 year-old Virgil Ware was killed by white teenagers who were returning from a segregationist rally held after the bombing. 16 year-old Jimmy Robinson was killed by Birmingham Police after (reportedly) hurling rocks at a police cruiser. I was shocked and appalled that this happened (and I knew nothing about it).
While I could write page after page honoring the brave citizens of Birmingham (especially the children) for standing up to the ruthless, segregationist police led by tank-riding police commissioner Bull Conner, I've decided to write about something different: Baseball. I arrived at this decision because I had the good fortune of visiting the oldest baseball stadium in the USA, Rickwood Park. Opened in 1910, and used regularly until 1987 by the Birmingham Barons (and the Black Barons of the Negro National League before the Negro Leagues folded in the early 1960s), it has been maintained by a dedicated group of citizens since. American Legion and Adult leagues use the field regularly and anyone can visit free of charge. Its worth your time even if you hate baseball...just an amazing historical relic.
On to the reason I've decided to write about baseball. When both the Barons and Black Barons were playing and segregation was strictly enforced, the teams shared the stadium in an interesting fashion. While the Barons played, African-Americans could only sit in the right field bleachers and when the Black Barons played, Whites could only sit in the right field bleachers. Interesting set-up to say the least. The Black Barons were so popular, that the city passed a temporary ordinance one year to allow the team to play an all-white team from the Texas League. Baseball was the ONLY instance were city leaders would change its strict segregation policy. Herein lies the important relationship between sports and the Civil Rights Movement. It can be argued that Jackie Robinson (who actually played at Rickwood Park in the minor leagues) was the most important person in the CRM. Ironically, I just started reading Roger Kahn's October Men (got it free at Country Inn & Suites) where he essentially makes the same point, saying "I think it is reasonable to suggest that without Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Jr. would have lived out his days delivering eloquent sermons in an obscure Baptist church in Georgia." As someone who loves sports, I'm obviously biased when it comes to discussing the social impact of sports. BUT, could you imagine an equally successful CRM without Jackie Robinson, all-black Texas Western defeating all-white Kentucky, Muhammad Ali, or "fists of freedom" at the 1968 Olympics? Sports became the place not only where racial injustice was publicized, but, also, the place where racial relations improved.
An interesting side story is how African-Americans were judged (and still are) by their stance on civil rights issue. Willie Mays, who grew up close to Birmingham and was a 16 year-old star on the Black Barons' 1948 championship team, was chastised for not participating in the CRM. So was Hank Aaron who also grew up in Alabama. Do sports stars (and other public figures) have an obligation to speak out on social issues? Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, among others, have faced criticism for not being more socially active while Muhammad Ali and Charles Barkley have been criticised for being too opinionated. Just some food for thought..Sorry for the tangent.
Its on to Atlanta tomorrow and my final stop on this glorious journey. It has been a wonderful experience every step of the way. I'd be lying if I said I was looking forward to visiting Dr. King's final resting place. Its a beautiful memorial to a special man, but, along with JFK and RFK, I'd like to think that the world would be better today if their lives weren't tragically taken far too soon.
Greetings from Birmingham. The weather has finally cooled off...dropped below 80 this evening!! During the 80 miles from Montgomery to Birmingham, I reached a new milestone: 2,000 miles. The people w/Alamo rental car are going to find out the real meaning of "unlimited mileage:)"
While this trip has been exhilarating day in and day out, I reached a new high today. I visited the Rosa Parks Museum & Library in Montgomery, and if I were to describe it in one word that word would be WOW!! Built in 2006 and administered by Troy University, I'm confident that the Rosa Parks Museum represents the "new age" of museums. It combines history with modern technology and the result is amazing. Quite honestly, it gave me chills and it made me feel like I was there on December 1, 1955...the day one courageous woman's decision to resist segregation and humiliation set off a movement throughout the United States. However, few really understand the story AFTER Rosa Parks was arrested, booked, and sent to jail. Her decision set off the Montgomery Bus Boycott, an 18-month battle of attrition that pitted the 90 years of government-supported discrimination against the African-American citizens of Montgomery.
Under the leadership of Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr. (26 years old and fresh out of divinity school), the African-Americans of Montgomery refused to ride the bus. This was something that required extraordinary commitment as most people ended up walking as much as 5 miles each way to work, the doctor, the grocery store, etc. More of these people will be forever nameless, but their courage in the face of true adversity should never be underestimated. Dependant on black ridership who made up more than 60 of bus passengers, the city capitulated and integrated. Think about the repercussions of one woman's amazing act: clear victory, the creation of a national leader in Dr. King, and the strengthening of a nationwide Civil Rights Movement headed towards its golden age. Thank you, Rosa Parks!
As I sit here in Birmingham, I'm looking forward to returning to the 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park. No place better explains the triumph and tragedy of the CRM than this important spot. The church that was ground zero for the Children's March and a clear victory legally and in the court of public opinion. It was also the place where 4 little girls were tragically killed. I will visit this storied church tomorrow, as well as the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute that sits next door. It should be an amazing day.
Its really hard to put my experiences today into words. I've been to both Selma & Montgomery before, but I'm convinced that the special feeling of walking over the Edmund Pettus Bridge is something that one feels every time. Could you imagine how John Lewis, Hosea Williams and 600 others felt when they could see that a sea of police officers on horseback and with gas masks were waiting on the other side? In his poignant autobiography entitled Walking in the Wind, Lewis describes some of the things that went through his mind. He recalls looking down at the Alabama River (185 feet below) and asking Williams if "he knew how to swim?" Neither did. They contemplated turning around and running, but realized that it was already too late. There were 600 people lined up in sets of two...there literally was no turning back because there was nowhere to go. So, they kept walking until they came face-to-face with Sheriff Jim Clark, local police, and Alabama state troopers. As the police charged, Lewis, Williams and others knelt in prayer...and they were savagely beaten. Ordinary people were marching from Selma to Montgomery because they were being forbidden one of our most cherished rights...the right to vote...were beaten in the world's cradle of freedom & democracy. This "event" became known as "Bloody Sunday," and the tiny town of Selma garnered attention throughout the World. Anyone with a heart felt a connection to the people beaten who ranged in age to 18 year-olds to those in their 60s.
What is often forgotten in the tragedy of "Bloody Sunday" is that a successful march (of 25,000 people) was held two weeks later, and that this event played a central role in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The symbolic act of walking 50 miles from Selma to Montgomery changed life in the South forever. Even more unknown (by me, too) was the aftermath of African-Americans in Alabama being given the right to vote. When tenant farmers in Lowndes County (and other Alabama counties) registered, their white land owners immediately kicked them off the land. Tent Cities throughout these counties arose, as African-Americans transitioned to new jobs and looked for new housing. Most importantly, however, none of them gave up this important right and returned to oppression. Another great example on this trip of true courage and dedication. All of these heroes will remain forever nameless, but their willingness to take a stand for what they felt was right left an indelible mark on the CRM.
When I completed the 50-mile trip to Montgomery, I immediately thought of what might have gone through Governor George Wallace's mind when 25,000 brave Americans arrived at his doorstep. The irony of the CRM was that villains like George Wallace, Jim Clark, the KKK, and Bull Conner played an incredibly important role in pushing public opinion in support of the CRM. Not only did these racists not get what they want, they played an essential role in the exact opposite...the expansion of rights for African-Americans.
Tomorrow is a big day. I'll visit the Rose Parks Museum and the Southern Poverty Law Center's Civil Rights Museum and Memorial before heading to Birmingham. Its been an exhilarating 8 days, and I'm so blessed to have this special opportunity. Every American should walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Its every bit as special as the more popular places I've been (i.e. Mount Rushmore, Golden Gate Bridge, Lincoln Memorial & Smithsonian Mall).
It will be really hard to top today's visit to MedgarEvers' house. I'm so grateful for the fine folks at Tougaloo College who give private tours and pay for the upkeep of this important landmark. For those of you who don't know much about MedgarEvers, he was an NAACP field secretary in Jackson who was tragically assassinated on June 12, 1963. His killer, Byron De La Beckwith, actually admitted to the crime (and later recanted), but didn't go to prison until 1994. Evers was arriving home late one evening when Beckwith killed him with a high-powered rifle. He died an hour later at a local hospital.
I felt a wave of emotions at Evers' house. I was taken back by the simplicity of his home and the beauty of his family. Today is my 3rd wedding anniversary, so I immediately had thoughts of my own wife & children. MedgarEvers & his wife knew the danger of being a public leader in a city where heinous crimes against African-Americans were commonplace. Is there a more appropriate definition of a hero than MedgarEvers? No, because Evers put his own life on the line for a cause greater than himself It may sound like a cliche, but it really is people like MedgarEvers who have made the USA the greatest country in the world.
After leaving Jackson, I headed East towards Alabama and stopped in Meridian, MS along the way. Neshoba County (which includes Meridian and Philadelphia) is where civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney were killed while participating in the events of Freedom Summer. Critically-acclaimed (but historically horrible) Mississippi Burning depicts these killings and the subsequent search for those responsible. 21 year-old James Chaney was one of the few Freedom Summer leaders who were natives of Mississippi. Like most others, Schwerner and Goodman were college students from the Northeast. Schwerner's parents wanted their son to be buried beside Chaney in Meridian, but they were forbidden by local authorities, so Chaney's gravesite is the only one of the three in MS.
Visiting James Chaney's final resting place was as moving as visiting MedgarEvers' house. Its another example of an ordinary person doing something extraordinarily courageous. He was a true foot soldier of the CRM. You'll notice in the photo that Chaney's headstone is reinforced by steel bars. This was done to prevent further desecration of his burial place because his grave has been destroyed numerous times. Sickening!
I arrived in Selma late this afternoon, and I'll visit both the National Voting Rights Museum and the Edmund Pettus Bridge tomorrow. I'll discuss the amazing story of Selma in more detail after the visit.
A few notes on my Civil Rights tour. To date, I've traveled over 1500 miles through 5 states. The trip has been informative, exhilarating, physically tiring, and emotionally draining. It's one thing to study history, but its quite another to experience it so intimately. I am so thankful to the Eichenbrenner family for this wonderful gift...nothing in my professional career and few things in my personal life have been as impactful as this special trip. Thank you!!
I arrived in Jackson, MS today...the southernmost point on my civil rights tour. The "main event" of my visit here comes tomorrow when I'll tour Medgar Evers' house, so I took some time today to visit some other areas in the Mississippi capitol. The highlight of the day was the Jackson State University campus. Jackson St. is the largest HBCU (Historically Black Colleges or University) in MS, and was the site of a tragic Vietnam-era event. Everyone is familiar with the shooting at Kent State University in Ohio, but few people remember that two Jackson St. students were killed just 10 days later during a protest over the escalation of the war. The picture is from Alexander Hall where the shootings took place. I'm dumbfounded by the Jackson State shootings. How could local police justify using so much force on unarmed protestors (70 shots were fired and bullet holes remain inside the dorm) and how could NO ONE be charged with any wrong doing?
The other picture is from the Greyhound bus station in downtown Jackson where the Freedom Rides ended. Unlike other places where Freedom Riders faced severe violence (Rock Hill, SC & Anniston, AL for example), there was no violence in Jackson...the Freedom Riders were met by local police officers and taken to prison.
I'd be lying if I thought Jackson embraced its CRM history. I was excited to visit the Old State Capitol Building and its CRM exhibit, but learned that the artifacts are currently in storage because they are being moved to a new museum (that hasn't even broken ground). There were a signficant number of sit-ins in downtown Jackson during the 60s, but none are highlighted today. Neither are the mass protests at the state fairgrounds. In 1962, local African-American teenagers were arrested because they protested the state's Jim Crow policies at the state fair. This infamous program allowed African-Americans to attend the fair on only 1 day.
The visit to Medgar Evers' house should be an enlightening experience. He is one of the true heroes of the CRM. I'll write more about him tomorrow. I will also be leave Mississippi and head to Selma, AL.
It was a pretty heavy day. I visited a few of the most important CRM sites in the rural, poverty-stricken area of Mississippi known as the Delta. I've read a lot about the continued poverty in this area of the country (75% or more by some estimates), but I truly felt it throughout the day. Quite honestly, it reminded me of the week I spent 10 years ago in Hazard, Kentucky...in the heart of Appalachia. Like that experience, I was overcome with guilt this afternoon. I realized that I take things like adequate housing, a good education, and available healthcare for granted.
I'd be lying if I said that today was enjoyable. It wasn't. The Emmett Till tragedy in and of itself is a depressing story...one of the most tragic events of the CRM, but seeing the living conditions in Tallahatchie and Leflore counties exaserbated my depression. Statistically, they are the two poorest counties in the poorest state in the USA. I would never judge a person's happiness or unhappiness based upon their material possessions, so I'll refrain from making any assumptions about the citizens in these counties. However, it was sad to see the Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center (ETHIC) at the end of a dirt road, closed, and in serious disrepair. As I learned shortly thereafter from a local businessman, the money had run out and admission fees alone couldn't keep this important museum open.
Because the ETHIC was closed, I decided to make the 15 mile trip to Ruleville, home and final resting place of Fannie Lou Hamer. Like the majority of the trip from Memphis through the Delta region, the trip from Glendora to Ruleville was filled with mile after mile of cotton fields. It was that way 200 years ago, and it remains that way today. Visiting the Fannie Lou Hamer memorial and final resting place, however, was a much more positive experience. The recently completed memorial is beautiful, and fitting for a CRM hero.
I'll leave the Delta tomorrow and head to Jackson, the state capitol. It should be a great day. The Old State Capitol Building includes the first CRM museum, so I'm looking forward to seeing some of the artifacts from the CRM in Mississippi. I'm also doing a driving tour of African-American history in the city and visiting two local Historically Black Colleges, Tugaloo College and Jackson State University. It will be an action-packed day. Thanks for following.
I visited the University of Mississippi this morning, the school integrated by James Meredith in 1962. I'm guessing that the scene couldn't have been more different from Meredith's nearly 50 years ago. It was a virtual ghost town today, which isn't surprising considering that I arrived on campus at 8:45am on a Sunday morning in July.
Ole Miss is a beautiful place. I can't imagine what fall Saturdays must be like when the Rebels have a home game. The tailgating area known at "The Grove" is famous throughout the college football world. The only "person" in the Grove this morning, however, was a squirrel. A few hundred yards away is Lyceum Cirlce, where you are greated by a large statue honoring Confederate soldiers killed in the Civil War. Behind the Lyceum (which Meredith first went to register for classes) is one of the newer editions to the Ole Miss campus: a beautiful status of James Meredith making this treacherous walk. For those of you who aren't familiar with Meredith's struggle to integrate Ole Miss, it was every bit as dangerous at the integration of Central High School in Little Rock. 2 people were killed and 3000 troops were called in to end 15 hours of protests. Meredith was escorted to the Lyceum by FBI agents and armed guards.
James Meredith ended up graduating from Ole Miss, and he wrote a book entitled Three Years in Mississippi documenting his time as the school's only African-American student. He is one of the forgotten heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. In addition to his courageous integration of Ole Miss, Meredith was nearly killed while completing a "Walk Against Fear" from Memphis to Jackson.
Tomorrow, I'm leaving Memphis and heading to the Mississippi Delta region. I'll leave the big city as my civil rights tour moves to the true "front lines" of the CRM...rural Mississippi and Alabama. Thanks for reading.
I drove over to Little Rock today. Logistically, it was a poor decision not to stay there because the drive from Memphis was 2 1/2 hours each way...a little too much driving for one day.
From a Civil Rights Movement perspective, however, it was a fantastic decision. I visited the Little Rock Central High School National Park (right next door to the famous school...which is still in operation and as beautiful as ever). It was a small, but well-done museum that covered the basics of the Little Rock movement and Little Rock 9. The real treat, however, was walking across the hallowed grounds of Central High. Like so many other historical places I've visited over the years, its extra special to visit a place that you've seen in pictures and have talked about significantly with students. Visiting after reading Melba Patillo's account as one of the Little Rock 9 (Warriors Don't Cry) helped to put the personal impact of an important CRM event into perspective. The Little Rock 9 epitomized the CRM because they were ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Literally putting "their lives on the line" in the name of a cause greater than themselves.
After spending a few hours in the sweltering Arkansas heat (99 degrees and HUMID), visiting the air-conditioned Bill Clinton Presidential Library was a treat. It was really exciting for me on a personal level. I was born in 1978, so I "came of age" in the 1990s. I firmly remember being a 9th grader and showing an interest in Presidential politics for the first time because of the 1992 election. Quite honestly, it was really 3rd party candidate Ross Perot's 30-minute infomercials that got me hooked, and I still remember discussing the election with my parents. I'm still hooked. The Library is a fantastic place, and, in my opinion, its for people from all political perspectives. It does an excellent job of covering the important events of the 1990s and the artifacts really show the personal side of the Presidential life. Surprisingly, however, there was no mention of a certain White House intern that became a household name!!
I've always been interested in the Civil Rights Movement. Even back when I was in high school and my AP American History teacher asked us to list the 5 American history topics that we'd most like to discuss after the AP exam I shared with my classmates the wish to investigate the CRM more deeply. In fact, it was 2nd on my list...right after studying the Italian Mafia and the history of the mob in America!! That all changed, however, when I went on Providence Day School's civil rights tour for teaching back in August 2004. As soon as our bus pulled up to the Lorraine Motel where the National Civil Rights Museum now sits I felt a deep connection the CRM...and the depth of this connection continues today. Its really hard to put into words what its like to visit the place where Martin Luther King, Jr. was tragically assassinated. My emotions today were different today than they were 5 years ago. 5 years ago I thought about the loss of one of America's greatest leaders and orators. Today, I thought about Dr. King's 4 children and the emptiness that they must have felt to lose their dad at such a young age (39). As a father of three, would I be willing to put my life on the line every day for a cause much greater than me? That's the courage and commitment of Dr. King in a nutshell...the willingness to stand up for what he believed in knowing that doing so would probably result in his own death. If you haven't visited the NCRM, its a must see. I've been learning about the CRM for well over a decade and teaching about it for 8 years, and I still learned a ton of new information. Its a special place that fills your heart and mind with a wealth of knowledge.
Tonight its Rendezvous for famous Memphis-style ribs followed by Beale Street for live music. Should be awesome. Tomorrow I'm headed to Little Rock, AR to visit Central High School and the Clinton Presidential Library.
A note on the pictures: I was quite proud of myself for creating a video, but I couldn't get it to download. After downloading for 90 minutes, I decided to give up...so i've attached a picture from the NCRM instead.
It was a great day. Spent the morning and afternoon in Nashville, and made the 200-mile drive to Memphis in 3 hours. If I realized anything over the course of the past few days its that Tennessee is a LONG state. Interstate 40 takes you from one end to the other...all 450+ miles. I have new found respect for the state...the Smokies on one end, Music City in the middle, and the Mississippi on the other end.
Back to Nashville for a few moments. Its a beautiful city filled with excitement and culture. On my trolley tour, I learned that Nashville's four main industries are: Healthcare, Music, Tourism, and Finance (in that order). When we passed Music Row, the tour guide noted that 89% of all songs from record labels in the USA are written in Nashville, and the city clearly has a musical feel. From a Civil Rights Movement standpoint, however, the city is incredibly frustrating. I don't understand how a city so important to the CRM...where its college students took Gandhi's (and Martin Luther King Jr.'s) philosophy of non-violent direct action and inspired an organized movement of successful sit-ins throughout the South...could ignore this role COMPLETELY. When you visit the 5th Avenue Arcade area where thousands of young people conducted sit-ins, went to jail, and were beaten emotionally and physically there is nothing. No museum, not even a sign. Nashville has a museum for Charlie Daniels of "The Devil went down to Georgia" fame, but it doesn't have a marker highlighting the CRM. I don't understand. The only remaining relic from early 60's is a a Walgreens...hence the picture above. Back in the early 60's, this Walgreens had a lunch counter that John Lewis and Diane Nash helped integrate.
Memphis will be different. Its a city that has embraced its role in the CRM. The city leaders used the most tragic event (Dr. King's assassination) of the CRM and turned it into an opportunity to educate future generations. More on Memphis tomorrow.
Well, I made it to Nashville after 7 hours of driving through some beautiful scenery on Interstate 40. Music City is a country music mecca, and the town clearly has a musical flavor. Given the city's important role in the Civil Rights Movement, however, its surprising that the "powers that be" haven't put more emphasis in promoting its CRM legacy. I sat down for dinner tonight at the TGI Friday's across the street from Vanderbilt University...not exactly a local hotspot, but its proximity to the hotel (1 block) made it an irresistible choice. It was a pretty normal dinner, but I noticed a significant amount of diversity in the restaurant, and immediately thought about what Nashville was like 50 years ago in 1959. Nashville was considered the most progressive city in the South back then and was often referred to as the "Athens of the South" because of its intellectual and artistic power. It also helped that the city leaders built an EXACT replica of the Greek Parthenon (which I'll visit tomorrow). At the same time, however, Nashville was deeply segregated. There was segregation in all bus stations, hotel, restaurants, and businesses. Tomorrow I'll visit the downtown area where college students at Nashville's Fisk University and Baptist Theological Seminary put their lives on the line to make my TGI Friday's experience even possible.
Two days from now I'll be on the road and headed to Nashville, TN. This trip has been in the planning stages for almost 5 years!! Ever since I had the opportunity to visit some of the Civil Rights Movement "hotspots" in August 2004, I've wanted to go again (and expand the trip to include places that I didn't get to visit back then). Its not an understatement to call this a DREAM vacation. I understand that most people probably don't have "go on a Civil Rights Tour" on their personal bucket list, but I guess that's what makes me unique or special (a nice way of saying that I'm a total history nerd!).
So, why a Civil Rights tour? Everyone who teaches history probably has an era, event, or person that they are really passionate about and for me its the CRM. The reason is quite simple: there is something truly special about ordinary people with ordinary lives and careers who do extraordinary things. History is too often about the heroes and not enough about the "foot soldiers." I would never discount the contributions or Martin Luther King, Jr. or other civil rights leaders...without them a CRM wouldn't have captured the attention of the American public. But, there is something truly American about people like Fannie Lou Hamer (wife of a sharecropper in Ruleville, MS and leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democrats) or 10 year-old children going to jail to end segregation (Birmingham, AL Children's March) or Viola Liuzzo (killed helping with the march from Selma to Montgomery) playing an integral role in the CRM. In short, the CRM is a prime example that we ALL can make a difference if we stand up for something we believe in.
Thank you for joining me on this journey and thank you Eichenbrenner family for making it possible.
Is there anything better in life than being a dad and a husband? I met my beautiful wife Samantha [who is probably upset that I put her picture on this blog:)] 4.5 years ago, and she and the boys quickly became the center of my world. I am truly blessed to have such a special family. If you are one of my students or colleagues you'll quickly realize how proud I am to have such a wonderful wife and kids (I talk about them non-stop). A little bit about the pictures. The one on the left is Michael all decked out for his pre-K graduation. He passed with flying colors and is looking forward to Kindergarten. Samantha, Zachary, and I were there to enjoy the festivities [Sam even shed a tear]. The one on the right is Samantha & Rylee on Tommy's 1st Communion. I know that I'm biased, but my family is beautiful.
Here's a little bit about the logistics of the Civil Rights tour: July 8th: Depart for Nashville, spend evening exploring CR in Nashville July 9th: Civil Rights Tour of Nashville in AM, depart for Memphis, TN (Memphis Redbirds game & dinner at Rendezvous [famous for ribs] in the evening) July 10th: meeting/tour of the National Civil Rights Museum (site of Dr. King's assassination), visit Beale Street July 11th: Little Rock, AR [Clinton Presidential Library and Central High School] July 12th: Rock-n-Soul Museum (Memphis) and Mississippi Delta "hotspots" [Fannie Lou Hamer's hometown, Cleveland] July 13th: Tour of the University of Mississippi (Oxford) and take the Emmett Till Driving Tour (Money) July 14th: Jackson, MS: Medgar Evers house, CR driving tour of Jackson, old statehouse building, Jackson State University. July 15th: Depart for Selma, AL. Stop in Meridian, MS to view James Chaney's gravesite. Visit the National Voting Rights Museum and walk the Edmund Pettus Bridge (Selma) July 16th: Depart Selma in afternoon for Montgomery, stopping at the March from Selma to Montgomery museum off I-90 July 17th: Montgomery, AL. Visit the Rose Parks museum, State Capitol building, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, and Southern Poverty Law Center, depart for Tuscaloosa in late afternoon. July 18th: Birmingham, AL (16th street Baptist church, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Kelly Ingram Park, and Tuscaloosa, AL (tour the University of Alabama campus) July 19th: Depart for Atlanta, GA in early morning. Visit "sweet auburn avenue" in Atlanta (MLK, Jr. National Historic site) July 20th: Depart for Charlotte, NC, stopping in Orangeburg, SC
Facts & Figures: States to be visited: 8 (North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina) Miles to be Traveled: approximately 1,200 Different Hotels: 8 Museums to be visited: 9 (National Civil Rights Museum, Rock-n-Soul Museum, Little Rock Central High School National Park, Clinton Presidential Library, National Voting Rights Museum, I-90 National Park, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Alabama Football Museum, Martin Luther King, Jr. Center) State Capitols to be Visited: 4 (Little Rock, Jackson, Montgomery, Atlanta) Baseball game to be attended: 2 (Memphis Redbirds, Montgomery Biscuits)
Thanks for visiting my Blog. I've created this site to share information, opinions, and pictures with my family, friends, students, and colleagues. The initial focus of this Blog will be to share a daily overview of my "once in a lifetime" trip, a Civil Rights Tour from July 8th through July 20th. I'll be visiting all of the Civil Rights "hotspots" across the South, including locations in 8 different states. This amazing trip would not be possible without the financial support of the Eichenbrenner family. Thank you Dr. and Mrs. Eichenbrenner for affording me the personal and professional opportunity of a lifetime.
If you reading this profile, you are probably a memebr of the PDS community. I've created this Blog to communicate with you in my "virtual" classroom and reflect on some of the wonderful things that happen in Middle School at PDS. At the same time, its impossible for me to avoid talking about some of the most important things in my life: my family [wife Samantha, Zachary-11, Michael-6, Rylee-3], American politics, and the Philadelphia Eagles. Enjoy!! and Thanks for visiting!