The Road From Selma to Montgomery, Revisited
Taking an emotional trip with civil rights icons and their loved ones, 45 years after the marches that spurred equal voting rights.
During breakfast at a restaurant outside the city, SCLC/W.O.M.E.N., Inc. director Evelyn Gibson Lowery, a smartly dressed woman with chestnut-colored hair, describes the indignities of Jim Crow segregation laws. She and her husband, Rev. Joseph Lowery, the civil rights icon who offered the benediction at President Barack Obama's inauguration—once lived in Birmingham, Ala.
"They used to always call it Bombingham because they bombed the cities," Lowery says.
Annetta Nunn sings "Amazing Grace" acapella, and I learn that until she retired in 2008, she was Birmingham's first woman chief of police. Today, she is a court advocate for domestic violence victims through the YWCA of Central Alabama and a gospel CD she recorded benefits the organization.
"Seeing all these civil rights leaders that you've only read about in books or seen in movie clips is wonderful," says Nunn, 51. "They laid the groundwork, and I always try to do my best."
The bus rolls down quiet roads lined with tall pine trees and rust-colored soil. Evelyn Lowery is going through with the tour even though her 88-year-old husband is home recuperating from a blood clot in his lung. One of the key volunteers, a woman who seems to never stop moving, is Ruby Shinhoster, the widow of activist and NAACP acting director Earl Shinhoster. At each stop, we meet an African-American woman in a leadership role. The Liuzzo sisters are carrying the message for their mother.
While we ride, we watch a documentary about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott. I learn Parks had a history with the bus driver who ordered her to give up her seat. In a previous incident, she warned him, "You better not hit me."