Final Leg of the Journey: Florida, Georgia, Carolinas, Virginia, Home
Our first stop on the way out of Florida. We knew that Jacksonville had plenty of Civil Rights history, but we basically did a drive-by shooting of the James Weldon Johnson Park. He was the author of Lift Every Voice and Sing. Below was the shot; I’m posting full size for ease of reading.
Limited Demographic Productions
Our next stop was Brunswick, Georgia. What do you think when you see this neighborhood below?
Nothing impressive, right? Quiet suburban neighborhood. On February 23, 2020, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan stalked Ahmaud Arbery as he went on a run through this neighborhood and killed him. We used Google maps to find the spot where he died near the street signs above. Our car is parked in front of it. We expected to find a small memorial as you see for fatal auto accidents, but all we saw was the withered flowers above. We left stones as is done in the Jewish tradition, which we had picked up in Selma. You can see them in the picture.
Next, a whirlwind stop in Savannah, Georgia, home to the largest slave auction ever to take place in the U.S. It was also the home to the well-organized Savannah Protest Movement.
By 1964 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to visit Savannah, he called it the most desegregated city in the South. This was largely in part to the work of hundreds of teenagers and young adults who protested and boycotted during the Civil Rights Movement. Not only did the students boycott Broughton St. and hold sit-ins at local restaurants and department store lunch counters (Figure 1), but they also held wade-ins on the segregated beaches at Tybee Island, kneel-ins at white churches, ride-ins on buses, and stand-ins at movie theaters.[i] They fought for equality in all aspects of lif
Ravi gets wounded
Michael parked illegally in a loading zone, I ran across the intersection pictured below to the former Levy’s Department Store/current community college and snapped a picture of the plaque. Took less than five minutes.
We were very pleased with the comfort and performance of our new Rav4 plug-in hybrid on this trip, although I have to say it still floors me that I am driving a vehicle more expensive than the house I grew up in. Therefore, I am sad that Gorilla tape is currently holding its bumper together. The plaque about the slave auction is located in a small wedge of a park in a residential neighborhood with limited parking. As Michael tried to maneuver out of his spot, he caught the bumper on a very low flatbed trailer. We tried putting the notches and tabs back together, but a couple of hours later, as we were driving to Columbia, SC to spend the night, we heard scraping and weird wind noises. Pulled over to a truck stop/mini-mart, and saw the bumper had come apart, and rubber and fabric stuff was hanging down beneath the engine. We got some tape in the mini-mart and tried to pull out the stuff that was hanging down. A kind trucker with tools then helped us out.
Our last stop in Harrisonburg, VA
I actually have five book projects I’m juggling right now. But two of the top three include Tony’s memoir (see Part V: St. Petersburg/Tampa), and the one I’m working on with Lisa Schirch about Mennonite collaboration with Nazis during the Third Reich. I also thought the note on her dryer was funny.
Thus ended our 3 and 1/2 week saga.
A unifying theme of the trip was that in every southern city, young people organized and served as the nonviolent foot soldiers in voting rights movement and against segregation. If they were here today they would be part of the Movement for Black Lives. If young people in the Movement for Black Lives had been born in the 1950s and 60s, they would have been the ones on the stools at Woolworths, in the swimming pool in St. Augustine, with the freedom riders on the buses.
The question for us: are we going to be part of today’s Civil Rights Movement or let the smears of craven politicians and media pundits turn us around?
And finally, more than once I was sad that I couldn’t share these experiences with my father, who died on New Year’s weekend this year. He met Fannie Lou Hamer and participated in a voter registration drive in Mississippi in the 1960s. He was also my most loyal blog reader.
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