Day two of our drive to Hilton Head included another stop just a bit off the beaten track. Bret had always wanted to see Selma, Alabama; site of Bloody Sunday and home of the National Voting Rights Museum. Although I had my doubts that driving so far out of our way would be worth it, it was a side trip that I am so glad we made. When we arrived in Selma, we found a tiny little museum filled with history and stories. Although Bret and I vaguely remembered the Bloody Sunday sections from our junior high text books, the kids had never heard about it before and were amazed and disturbed to hear the stories. Right as we were preparing to leave, a small black woman walked up to us and introduced herself.
“I’m Annie, I was worked with Dr. King and I was there on Bloody Sunday when we were attacked.”
Suddenly the black and white photographs on the wall all came rushing at me, like an old history reel of newspaper headlines will do. As she gently took us back through the museum telling us her own version of the events we were seeing through photographs on the walls, it became so real for us. Almost too real. The kids were stunned into silence as she spoke of crossing the bridge with Dr. King only to find that the sheriff had set up an ambush. She told of friends and co-workers, other volunteers who were trampled, shot and beaten back. She didn’t hold back and none of us knew what to say.
As we drove the long drive from Selma to Montgomery, we sat in silence as we contemplated how far Annie and her friends had marched just so they could exercise the right that had already been granted them – the right to vote. As we drove, the kids began to ask questions: If the president had granted them the right, why were they beaten? How did the white men get away with it? Why did they think blacks were so bad?
At the time I remember thinking how glad I was that Bret had wanted to see this little museum in the middle of nowhere. The museum that certainly wasn’t on the way to Hilton Head, but that made such an impact in all of our lives.