(“Where they Went,” published July 5, 2009, Boston Globe)
WHO: Madeleine Entel, 58, of Wellfleet, , Mass. and Mary Plummer, 67, of Worcester, Mass.
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.
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.’’
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.
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.’’