This single photograph shows an amazing crucible of American history


This is the fifteenth of my posts based on a recent tour of the eastern half of the USA. I visited a number of sites relevant to African American history. To mark Black History Month, I am relating some of the things I saw, in the order I saw them.

Without any doubt, the highlight of my USA tour was my visit to Mongomery, Alabama. To coin a phrase of Stephen Fry’s, for someone interested in history, it was like swimming through liquid chocolate. Within half a mile of the State Capitol, there are a clutch of historic sites which bore witness to some of the most seminal events in the history of the USA.

Indeed, what astounded me, is that I was able to take the photo above which shows three sites which witnessed very significant events in the history of the American Civil War and the fight for Civil Rights for all races. To take the image, I was standing inside the porch of the Alabaman State Capitol building looking out of one of the front windows and down Dexter Avenue towards Court Square.

Here is an annotated version of that photo, with the list of events which took place in the area:

1. The spot where Jefferson Davis stood to make his inaugural speech as President of the Confederate States of America on February 18th 1861, thereby making the American Civil War inevitable.

2. Court Square, where African American slaves were bought and sold at auction:

Slaves of all ages were auctioned, along with land and livestock, standing in line to be inspected. Public posters advertised sales and included gender, approximate age, first name (slaves did not have last names), skill, price, complexion and owner’s name.

The telegram order to start the bombardment of Fort Sumter was sent from a building on the square on April 12th 1861. This started the American Civil War.

3. Also on Court Square, Rosa Parks boarded the bus on which she refused to give up her place to a white person, starting the Montgomery Bus Boycott which eventually started the dismantling of racial segregation in the USA.

4. Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where Dr Martin Luther King Junior was the pastor during the Montgomery Bus Boycott 1955-56.

5. On these steps on 25th March 1965, Dr Martin Luther King Junior made a historic speech at the conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery march for civil liberties. It included a passage when he repeated the words “How long? Not long!” and included this sentence which is one of the engravings on the Martin Luther King memorial in Washington DC (see photo at the bottom of this post):

We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.

Here’s an excerpt from the speech on YouTube:




6. A front pillar of the Alabaman State Capitol, which was completed by slaves in 1851.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is a councillor and one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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4 Comments

  • Steve Trevethan 17th Oct '17 - 11:44am

    Thank you for your interesting series of articles.

    For a more accurate grasp of history it is necessary to go beyond Main Stream History. It is also interesting!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosa_Parks

    Similarly, when we base our party’s policies on the Mainstream Media without looking further and deeper, we do not have an efficient foundation for our policies. They will only be variations on a theme set by others for their own benefit.

  • Richard Underhill 17th Oct '17 - 2:19pm

    See “Bury my heart at wounded knee”
    “They made us many promises but they only kept but one
    they promised to take our land and they took it.”

  • Tony Dawson 21st Oct '17 - 4:31pm

    I would just like to thank Paul for this insightful series. It is a shame that not may Americans will get to see it – or gain the insight the other way.

    I have spent the last two and a half weeks bottled up in the metro area of the progressive and dynamic midwestern city of Denver. It is amazing to discover how limited many US citizens are in terms of ever going to the other end of the state let alone exploring the rest of the USA or the world. Our note, however, is fantastically cosmopolitan both in terms of US diversity and international visiters.

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