The British writer and photographer Johny Pitts, whose father is African-American, takes the path of civil rights in the southern United States. In this episode, he stops in Alabama, in the cities of Montgomery and Selma, where important events in the struggle for desegregation took place.
Alabama is a land of food, entertainment and history due to its connection to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. Alabama holds a special place in the hearts and minds of African Americans. Americans and those fighting for equality around the world.
Montgomery is known as the “Capital of Dreams,” and it’s no wonder it’s home to national landmarks like King Memorial Baptist Church on Dexter Avenue and the National Peace and Justice Memorial.
Probably the most famous resident of Montgomery in the past was Rosa Parks, the woman who sparked a movement when she refused to give way to a white passenger on a bus in 1955.
“There is so much more to this story,” says tour guide, artist and activist Michelle Browder, who helped design and build the “Black Live Matters” mural in a Montgomery square.
Rosa Parks’ courageous determination led to action by groups such as the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR), but of course also by Martin Luther King. During her visits, Michelle Browder traces the known and unknown elements of these actions. She wants visitors to the city to open their eyes to history so that the injustice of segregation and “Jim Crow” laws won’t happen again around the world.
“It’s good to go to all the museums, but when you meet the local communities directly, I think you have a different perspective.” she says.
A grill for freedom
Throughout Montgomery, there are places that served in the shadows, as community spaces, and as places of refuge and education during the civil rights era.
“Brenda’s Bar-B-Que Pit” is one of those that still exists. This grill with cooking pit serves delicious southern cuisine.
“They held secret meetings here and gave lessons to those who could not read or write,” says Monique Bethune, co-owner and granddaughter of the first owner. Monique’s grandmother was a prominent activist who participated in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march.
“It’s more than a grill here,” says the young restaurateur. “It’s a barbecue and a legacy,” she points out.
Sure, there’s a lot to learn and eat at the establishment, but beware if you ask for the recipe for the secret sauce!
Edmund Pettus Bridge
The world famous town of Selma also has a story to tell as it was the starting point for the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965.
Here you can visit the “Coffee Shoppe”, near the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It was on this bridge that the infamous “Bloody Sunday” took place, when the police attacked demonstrators who were peacefully marching for the right to vote for African Americans.
“We have served people from all over the world,” notes Jackie Smith, owner of the Coffee Shoppe. “It really shows what Selma means to the rest of the world,” she points out.