Martin Luther King Memorial Inscription To Be Modified

The Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, D.C., was unveiled on August 28, 2011. It has since proved hugely popular, with an estimated 1.5 to 2 million visitors in its first year. It has also proved controversial.

As Art Daily reports, several public figures complained about an inscription on the memorial that reads, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” The inscription is not in quotes because it’s actually a paraphrase of what King said. His actual words were, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

Leading poet Maya Angelou told the Washington Post that the paraphrase makes King look like “an arrogant twit.” She went on to say that the civil rights leader was anything but arrogant and the paraphrase “minimizes the man.”

Now the full quote will be included. In September or October, after the summer tourist rush is over, two sculptors will change the quote.

The statue’s other inscription hasn’t caused any controversy. It reads, “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

The Green Book: A Guidebook For The Age Of Segregation

It’s hard to imagine nowadays when the only limitations to travel are money, time and health, but for much of America’s history a large segment of the population had trouble traveling just because of the color of their skin.

During the days of segregation, most hotels were off-limits to African-Americans, as were other facilities like restaurants, movie theaters and campgrounds. Those that did allow blacks to enter had strict rules of segregation. Stopping at the wrong restaurant could lead a black family to being insulted or worse.

Yet a rising black middle class had just as much hunger for travel as anyone else. The problem was: how does one travel safely? One answer was “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” a guidebook that listed hotels and restaurants open to black people. While it wasn’t the only such guidebook, it was one of the most popular and long lasting. It was started by Victor H. Green in 1936 as a guide just for New York City, but soon expanded to include the whole country and eventually Bermuda, Mexico and Canada.

I’d never heard of this book until I saw it mentioned on the excellent website I’m Black and I Travel. I downloaded a free PDF of the 1949 edition from the University of Michigan website and found it a fascinating read. The book introduces itself as a resource “to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trips more enjoyable.”

Then come the listings. I took special note of places I used to live. Tucson, Arizona, only had one listing for a restaurant and no lodging mentioned. Columbia, Missouri, had a hotel and a tourist home, which was a private home that rented out spare rooms to travelers. The hotel has since disappeared and the land on which it stood is now taken up by an adult store and theater. The guesthouse is now a private residence. New York City, of course, had plenty of listings. The Harlem Renaissance was in full swing and the Harlem listings are longer than the listings for many states.

%Gallery-153462%Another city that has a sizable listing is Tulsa, Oklahoma. Only 28 years before, the thriving black neighborhood of Greenwood had been burned to the ground and hundreds of black people killed by a white mob in the worst race riot in American history. By 1949, numerous black-owned businesses had literally sprung from the ashes and got into “The Green Book.”

The advertisements open up a different era too. How long has it been since hotels boasted they had hot water and radios in every room? Only two national companies advertised in this edition: Esso, which was a leader in selling franchises to African-Americans, and Ford Motor Company, which placed an ad for its very cool 1949 convertible. Green also advertised his own reservation bureau, noting that a shortage of beds for black travelers made it essential to plan ahead.

There are also a couple of articles, including one on what to see in Chicago, highlighting its large black neighborhood as well as more general interest sights. Another article talked about Robbins, Illinois, which was of interest to the black reader since it was a prosperous town owned almost entirely by black people. The guidebook notes that with “no prejudice and restrictions” the community was able to boom. The article finishes: “It is worth the trouble to go out and take a look at what an experiment of an exhibition of what Negroes working together can do. Indeed, it would not be a bad idea to pitch in and help.”

One thing that struck me most about this book was the absolute lack of rancor. The problem of segregation is noted, and in a couple of places Green hopes for it to end one day, but there are no angry tirades against the injustice that black people were suffering. If I had been black in 1949, I doubt I would have been so charitable.

“The Green Book” is a sobering reminder of a sad time in U.S. history, and also a reminder that things occasionally get better – not 100% better, but time has seen a major improvement. Green stopped publication after 1964 after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. It is now a rare item and it’s not even clear if a copy exists for every edition. If you think you or your grandparents may have a copy tucked away in the attic, go check. It should be preserved.

Do you have memories of travel in the age of segregation? Tell us about them in the comments section!

[Photo courtesy University of Michigan]

Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings make a U.S. stop for the first time ever

There’s an art exhibit opening at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama on September 28th that is a reminder that art museums other than the big name ones in the big name cities like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Louvre in Paris or The Uffizi in Florence, Italy have wonderful exhibits that are trip worthy.

The Birmingham Museum of Art, a museum that was founded in 1951 and has enough of an endowment that admission is free, has snagged the first showing of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings from his notebook “Codex on the Flight of Birds.” These drawings have never been shown together outside of Italy. The drawings created between 1480 to 1510 offer a look into the workings of da Vinci’s thought process.

Through an agreement between Biblioteca Reale and the Foundation for Italian Art & Culture and the Birmingham Museum of Art, the exhibit ” Leonardo da Vinci: Drawings from the Biblioteca Reale in Turin” is possible. You can see it through November 9.

I’ve always associated Birmingham with the Civil Rights Movement. When I was there a couple years ago, I went to the Civil Rights District, something I recommend. The Birmingham Museum of Art is another draw I know about. Spend a weekend in Birmingham, and I’d say you won’t be disappointed.

World Heritage Site new “Tentative List”: Places to Love: Civil Rights Movement Sites

For the Gadling series “World Heritage Site new “Tentative List”: Places to Love” we are covering the 14 sites that have been submitted for possible inclusion as an official World Heritage Site in the United States. The sites will not be posted in order of importance or in the order they appear on the list.

Number 1

Name of site: Civil Rights Movement Sites

Location: Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama.

Reason for importance (in a nutshell): Three churches, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery and the Bethel Baptist and 16th Street Baptist Churches in Birmingham, all historically African-American, played significant roles during the Civil Rights Movement.

Jamie’s Take: Of all the places on the new Tentative Sites list, these are perhaps the most humble and each hold enormous significance to American history. During Black History month, this is a fitting time to pay tribute. Here’s why:

Picture Martin Luther King Jr. standing at the simple pulpit of what was then called Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. From 1954 to1960, he was the pastor of this church, preaching his message that pulled people into a movement that changed history. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was organized from here. The church today looks similar to what it did back then–even the pulpit is still there.

In Birmingham on September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church. Hatred killed four girls while they were putting on their choir robes. Members of the Klu Klux Klan were responsible. The bombing played a large role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The church, in the heart of the Civil Rights District of Birmingham, still operates as a church today. In 1873, when it was founded, it was the first African American church to in Birmingham.

From 1956-1961, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) was headquartered at the Bethel Baptist Church. The early Civil Rights movement efforts were organized here, including the Freedom Ride bus trip that helped lead to the desegregation of bus transportation. This church was bombed several times and is now a National Historic Landmark.