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Wally on Wheels:  Wabash College Immersion Trip 2017

Anniston and Birmingham, AL

Lamore Boudoin, Neil Dittmann, Henry Swift, James “Anthony” Williams

Our day began in Anniston AL, where the Freedom Rider’s bus was firebombed. Following breakfast the classes split into 3 groups to explore the Anniston Civil Rights Trail. Some locations on this trail included the bus depot where the Freedom Riders were assaulted, the county courthouse, the 17th St. Baptist church where many protests were staged, and the train station where Student Art Bacon was attacked. We reconvened in our hotel afterwards to discuss what we had seen and to hear the reports of others. On our way out of Anniston we stopped at the spot the Freedom Rider’s bus was firebombed at. It was eerie to see that place so ordinary today. The next stop on our trip was Birmingham. We were dropped off in the historic fourth avenue district, which was formerly known as black wall-street. It was called this because of the high density of black owned shops and restaurants. It was a point of pride in the black Birmingham community and they showed it by wearing their best clothes to go shopping. A person of particular note was Afton Lee. He came from nothing to become the richest man in Alabama. We had an hour to explore this area, eat lunch and to make our way over to historic Kelly Ingram Park. Kelly Ingram Park was the staging ground for many of Dr. King’s protests. Today it is a memorial site filled with sculptures, including one that depicts the attack dogs used on protestors. It sits just across the road from the 16th Street Baptist Church. The 16th street Baptist Church was famously bombed by Klan members during the Birmingham protests, killing four young girls. At the church we listened to a civil rights foot soldier speak about his experiences with Dr. King and the civil rights movement. Following the 16th street church we went to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. There we saw a history of the civil rights movement in Birmingham, beginning with the Bus Boycotts. We ended our night with an amazing dinner with Wabash College Alumni Daryl Johnson, Cleo Washington, and James Kamplain at the Embassy Suites Hotel.

Anniston, City within a City

Anniston was a segregated city not too long ago. This mural is a representation of that time in the history of the city where blacks were not allowed to coexist in the same physical space as whites. We were able to walk through the two separate downtowns, and what stayed with me was the clear line between the white side of town and the black side of town. As the mural suggests, it really was a city within a city.

Freedom Riders Bus

This is a painted image in Anniston, Alabama of the greyhound bus that the Freedom Riders rode to help change the laws on segregated buses. This mural is at the exact location of the first attack on the Freedom Riders by the Klan members with the help of police officials They managed to escape but were forced to stop a few miles down the road due to a slashed tire. As a result, the bus was firebombed and the passengers were beaten.

Kelly Ingram Park

This statue titled “Foot Soldier” features a young black man being attacked by a police dog while the policeman is grabbing the young black man by the shirt, pulling him towards the dog. We were taught that this statue, although based on a photograph depicting more or less the same act, was changed to make the police man taller and the black man younger and “blacker” in appearance. This made us wonder why we choose to remember and immortalize events in public memory the way that we do.

16th Street Baptist Church

(bottom) The four young girls who were killed due to the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church as an attempt to scare away blacks: Denise McNair (11), Carole Robertson (14), Addie Mae Collins (14), Cynthia Wesley (14).

(top) A few years after the bombing, this window was given to the church by the country of Wales as a representation of a black crucified Christ who had one hand pushing away segregation/injustice while the other reaches out to offer forgiveness.

Trustee Dinner

This is a picture of the dinner sponsored by Emeritus trustee Daryl Johnson ‘82 at the Embassy Suite in Birmingham, AL. An incredible night full of fellowship and networking whose guest were composed of students, Alumni (Cleo Washington ‘85 and James Kamplain ‘71) and prospective students. This was one of the few nights we were able to explore the city in which we found Birmingham to be one of the most exciting and enjoyable.