The motto in the Freeman family is “Education doesn’t get a break”, and we try our best to teach beyond the classroom walls. After having toured the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta and the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, it was only befitting that we visit the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham. We also had an opportunity to visit Sixteenth Street Baptist Church which sits right across the street from the Civil Rights Institute.
On the day of arrival, we were later than expected and did not have an opportunity to tour the museum. The members of the church were having choir rehearsal, so we could not enter the church. While walking the outside premises of the church, a stranger stopped us and asked if he could speak to our son. We gave him permission to proceed as we stood near. The guy was definitely inebriated. Even in the midst of his drunken state, he was very articulate, knowledgeable and passionate about Birmingham’s role in the Civil Rights Movement. The information he shared was accurate and unbeknownst to us would guide us in understanding several things throughout the museum the following day.
On day two, we toured the museum and the church. We were able to watch videos, view pictures and hear stories about the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church which took the lives of four young, black girls. While at the museum, we read letters written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while in jail. Additional parts of the tour included many accounts of segregation, The Freedom Riders exhibit, and an audio playing throughout part of the tour that kept repeating the word “nigger”.
Because we try to find humor in everything, our son joked about the items and articles that were available to us “back in the day” such as the old glass bottle soda machines. He asked questions like; “Did that soda machine even work?” or “What kind of stereo is that?”
Although these type of trips can be very disheartening because of some exhibits, we use these occasions to show our son why it is important to have his own account of history. It also helps him understand why it is important to do his very best in all endeavors and never let an opportunity to be great pass by.