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Sweet Home Alabama #MondayBlogs

Well, Alabama ain’t my home and Lynyrd Skynyrd ain’t my favorite band (except for Free Bird and that in large part because it was the favorite song of a cousin I looked up to).  But Alabama is my husband’s mother’s home state.  The city of Montgomery in particular.  A place he last visited more than 50 years ago when he went as a little boy with his mother and sister to visit his Mamaw (look it up).  Recently we took a trip to Montgomery to see if it had changed since my husband’s last and only visit.

You laugh.

But this is the Real South I’m talking about.  Sometimes some things don’t change.

We were only in Montgomery for one full day, which we spent driving and walking around, seeing what might spur my husband’s imagination memory.

For example, Chris’s World Famous Hot Dogs.

My husband had his first chili dog there when he still wearing knickers.  Like I said, about 50+ years ago.  And the place is still there.  They still serve chili dogs although my husband complained it wasn’t quite the same as he remembered.

The Capitol building was a high point as was the walk up to it, on Dexter Avenue. The flowers in this photo were not in bloom during our visit, but it was still a sunny day with blue skies and fluffy clouds.

"Alabama Capitol Building" by Carol M. Highsmith - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID highsm.07064.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.العربية | čeština | Deutsch | English | español | فارسی | suomi | français | magyar | italiano | македонски | മലയാളം | Nederlands | polski | português | русский | slovenčina | slovenščina | Türkçe | українська | 中文 | 中文(简体)‎ | 中文(繁體)‎ | +/−. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Alabama Capitol Building” by Carol M. HighsmithThis image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID highsm.07064. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

My husband had a vivid memory of seeing a gold star embedded in one of the steps to the Capitol.  Something to do with Jefferson Davis, he recalled but being just a child, he was fascinated by the star, not the history.  Where exactly on the Capitol steps would it be, he didn’t know.


Inscription: “Placed by Sophie Bibb Chapter Daughters of the Confederacy on the spot where Jefferson Davis stood when inaugurated President of the C.S.A. Feb. 18, 1861.”

Finding the star wasn’t difficult at all once I looked it up on my iPad.  And the view from that spot was rather pleasant, although my photography skills are rather lacking.


The view from the Capitol building, down Dexter Avenue. Montgomery, Alabama. May 2015.

Only two blocks before the Capitol building was a modest church. It’s stature smaller than many of the other many churches in Montgomery (and I do mean to use the word ‘many’ twice).  We might have just walked by Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was pastor for several years.  Services are still held at the church and a small museum is on the bottom floor.  I’m not a church-going believer, but this is one church in which I would be happy to seek shelter.


Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, founded in 1877, and first known as the Second Colored Baptist Church. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., served as pastor from 1954-1960.

But in an interesting juxtaposition, on the corner opposite the church, a tombstone-look marker reminded us of Montgomery’s long journey forward.


Yes, in 1942, some people still pined for the good ole days of the nascent Confederacy, when they could sip mint juleps in the shade of their verandas while their slaves toiled to their deaths under the searing Southern sun.  If they couldn’t go back in time, they would surely make sure that people knew of their desire.

The juxtaposition didn’t end there.  Directly across Dexter Avenue was another marker, a newer one that filled me with hope.


And the strangely moving sight of shoe prints, all kinds, all sizes, stretching from the Civil Rights marker above, across Dexter Avenue, to the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.


One image I didn’t capture but still sticks in my mind as clear as the moment I saw it:  In the ladies’ room at the Planetarium (yes, Montgomery has a planetarium and a very nice one, too), the soap dispenser had an interesting insignia.  The insignia described Alabama as both “The Cradle of the Confederacy” and “The Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement.”  It looked something like this, but on a soap dispenser.

This seal represents the South to me, not just Alabama.  On the one hand, history and one’s part in it should not be forgotten.  “Cradle of the Confederacy.”  The marker, commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, directly across from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.  These are reminders of Alabama’s history and the role it played in the Confederacy and the Civil War.

Wrongs must be righted. “Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement.” Shoe prints stretching across Dexter Avenue, representing the March from Selma to Montgomery.  The marker commemorating that march.  These demonstrate that Alabama is moving forward in history, not forgetting its history but (hopefully) refusing to repeat it.

Or am I giving Alabama too much credit?  Perhaps Alabama still pines for those days long gone, those days before we knew what what we were capable of doing to each other.  Perhaps some think there’s still a chance the Confederacy can be reborn and, for them, “Cradle of the Confederacy” is a source of pride.

What do you think, Dear Reader?  Are these odd juxtapositions of historical importance?  Or is there some poetry here, like a song suggesting, “it’s complicated.”


Categories: Memoir

Tagged as:

Marie A Bailey

Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.

22 replies

  1. I love the old south, and the new south, but I always feel compelled to remind people that less than 1% of people in USA owned slaves at any point in history. It saddens me that society has put the entire south into that pot. That being said, NO percent of people should own other people (not even corporations), and I am grateful for the changes that have occurred over the years since the Civil War. The south was slow to accept those changes because of the indoctrination of their forefathers. It’s changing still. There are Caribbeans, Hispanics, Brazilians, African Americans, Haitians, Caucasians, Indians, and a host of other peoples that populate the south now. Little enclaves of different people from different backgrounds exist and hopefully they can all live in harmony without losing the colorful heritage that makes each and everyone of us unique.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Other than Florida, I’ve not visited the South. (I’ve been to Texas once too, but I’m not sure that counts.) I’d love to go someday, but I suspect some of those historical references could be unsettling. Wonderful pictures. Thanks for taking us to Montgomery without having to leave our laptops. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Carrie. Texas does indeed count 🙂 I’m glad we went to Montgomery and not just for my husband’s trip down memory lane. Yes, some of the historical markers were unsettling, a sharp, in-your-face reminder of a horrific past. But I do admire how Montgomery has seemed to incorporate and face up to its history.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Marie. I have not been to Alabama for a number of years. I’m glad to see some effort to be inclusive to historical moments. Not all supporters of the Confederacy did so because of wishing to continue slavery. They did so as a statement of rebellion against a Federal government which tended to ignore local differences in its policies. The fact that slavery was a tenant of the Confederate constitution does render most of the well-meaning principles moot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, John. I was impressed by all the markers we saw during our few hours in downtown Montgomery. The City definitely provides its citizens and guests with an education but in a beautiful setting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved this post. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and pictures.
    I know little about Montgomery, other than its importance in the Civil Rights movement. I thought your observations–and photographs were spot on. History is filled with strange juxtapositions–and sometimes they occur in a particular spot. There was a large slave market in Washington, D.C., for example. Such juxtapositions are important to know about, I think.
    The path of shoe prints is a poignant marker of the struggle for freedom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Merril! I love the path of shoe prints. That probably filled me with awe more than anything else … simple but powerful symbolism. While the juxtapositions were unsettling, I agree that they are necessary. We all own this history, and it’s important that we never forget.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Always so much irony in places like that. I think the strange juxtapositions are part of a weird compromise that goes something like: “We’ll put up a plaque about the Selma march but we get to mention the Confederacy in fine print (or we won’t pay for it!).” It’s akin to apologies along the lines of, “I’m sorry if anyone took what I said the wrong way.”

    I haven’t set foot in the south for many a year. Don’t foresee a trip there in the future either — for the humidity alone!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, Kevin! You and my husband are of pretty much the same mind. I did learn that “Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement” was added to the Alabama seal only in 2002 (?) so it’s kind of weird that “Cradle of the Confederacy” was allowed to remain. But it probably was some kind of “compromise.” After 25 years, I am definitely willing and often eager to leave the South. I am tired of the long hot humid summers among other things 😉


  6. I’ve never been to Alabama, appreciate your post, Marie. You packed a lot of history into one day. Thanks for the photos, always good to think reflect on how much has changed, how much has stayed the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I like your last line. History is full of those juxtapositions and we sometimes look at them, wondering how people could hold two completely opposite thoughts in their head at the same time. I’m sure people will wonder the same about us at some point! Never been to Alabama myself. My only experience with the south has been Atlanta and from what I’ve been told, it’s pretty different from the “real south.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, Atlanta may be in its own class. I’ve only gone there on business but it’s a sprawling urban area. Nobody walks, everybody drives. My part of Florida is somewhat like the “real” South although I’ve had some South Carolinians tell me the contrary. I think all our history is complicated. No doubt we’ll have differing opinions until the end of time 🙂


  8. I read your post about Charleston first and it brought me back here. It’s all so mind-boggling and it’s hard to know what is in the hearts and minds of others–particularly when they are from a different region. But something that gives me hope is that I read bloggers and Facebook friends who have decided to speak up and many of them have Southern roots. That’s a beautiful thing. And Jefferson Davis and all that history wasn’t only about slavery, but because it included slavery that is how we look back on it now. ALL else is tarnished with the South’s reliance on slavery. We need to remember the history, but to do so so near the church is just rubbing salt, I think. Flags and markers and statues and the lot that relate to slavery need to be in museums (and book, etc.) not displayed in this manner. Not where people don’t have to THINK about the meaning. Not where it is just part of “everyday.”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey, that’s fabulous!! More and more are following suit, but there will be more people digging in their heels, most likely.


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