Civil rights road trip through Alabama

(“Where they Went,” published July 5, 2009, Boston Globe)

Mary Plummer (left) and Maddy Entel dining outside at Nancy Paterson's Bistro in Montgomery, AL

Mary Plummer (left) and Maddy Entel take a break from touring in Montgomery, Ala.

WHO: Madeleine Entel, 58, of Wellfleet, , Mass. and Mary Plummer, 67, of Worcester, Mass.

WHERE: Alabama.

WHEN: A week in January.

WHY: “We’d talked about doing a civil rights trip for some time,’’ Plummer said. “We were particularly interested in visiting the Southern Poverty Law Center. We’ve both been members for quite a long time, at least since the ’80s.’’ The coincidental timing of their trip, the week before Martin Luther King Day and President Obama’s inauguration, made the visit even more meaningful, she said.

Mary walks into the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery

Visiting the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery was a highlight

NO PLACE FOR HATE: Because the women are longtime members of the center, known for its tolerance education and legal battles against hate groups, they were able to get a tour of its Montgomery headquarters. “It’s a beautiful modern building down the street from the capitol. There are no signs on the building, which is highly secured, but when you go in, you get a wonderful welcome and the building inside is very open,’’ Plummer said. “We were there two hours and our guide took us to all four floors. We saw where they do the publication Teaching Tolerance and where the lawyers work. They deal with specific cases of hate crimes and intolerance. We even got to meet Joe Levin, one of the cofounders. That was quite something. It was all very impressive. All the other things we saw all week were memorialized in the past, but here it’s an ongoing process, working in the present.’’

Maddy in front of the Civil Rights Memorial

Maddy poses in front of the memorial, designed by famed architect Maya Lin

MOVING MEMORIAL: Across the street, they visited the Civil Rights Memorial Center, sponsored by the Law Center and best known for its memorial designed by architect Maya Lin. “Water rolls down over a quote of Dr. King, ‘until justice rolls down like waters,’ and over a round slab with names of people honored. You’re encouraged to touch it,’’ Plummer said.

Historic sign commemorating Rosa Parks` role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Historic sign commemorates Rosa Parks` role in the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott

SITES OF RIGHTS AND WRONGS: Other stops in Montgomery included “the First White House of the Confederacy,’’ the former home of Jefferson Davis, head of the Confederacy; the historic Cloverdale neighborhood; Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts; the Troy University Rosa Parks Museum; and Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where King once served as pastor.

BIRMINGHAM BOUND: A 90-minute drive north took the women to Birmingham, where they spent hours at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a museum covering the history of civil rights, and visited the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four girls were killed in a racially motivated bomb attack in 1963. They found time for culture, too, visiting the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and the Birmingham Art Museum. “We really enjoyed the quilts from Gee’s Bend.’’ After a week in the South, she said, they were getting used to warmer weather, lower prices, and “a lot of y’alls.’’



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3 Responses to “Civil rights road trip through Alabama”

  1. Karen Says:

    Read this again after reading it in the Globe. Two wonderful people…or does Diane just ask the right questions, really listen, and find the “wonderful” in the story…in the people?

  2. didaniel Says:

    Let’s call it a joint effort. I loved it that they were so excited to meet Joe Levin, cofounder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Now that’s the kind of celebrity fawning I can admire!

  3. benstuart2519 Says:

    Nice post and it is a great place to visit it is very knowlegeable. I was also there with my family and that was a really nice visit.

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