Today we woke up in a hotel in Atlanta, Georgia; there we had breakfast and made our way to a museum called “Martin Luther King Center” were we saw a film explaining the accomplishments of King and a little bit of the background of Montgomery throughout 1929-1959. Then we visited the center of spiritual and community life for the King family–the “Ebenezer Baptist Church”. There we sat and stood in silence for 15 minutes and reflected a little bit on what was like living in that time and about the history that that church has. Finally we visited King’s birth home and now we are on our way to Richmond to visit the Museum of the Confederacy.
It was our fourth day, and we took a tour at Whitwell Middle School. This is the school that made a memorial that commemorates the Jewish Holocaust that happened during WWII. We first of all went inside an old style train carriage used by the Nazis to transport millions of Jews to concentration camps. This car was filled with paperclips which each represented a life executed by the Nazis. We saw some butterflies in wire made by an artist meaning to represent rebirth, and we also saw some stones brought by people to represent lives in the same way as the paperclips.
We then moved to the inside of the campus and saw the respectable Ms. Linda Hooper in flesh. She herself was nice, being tolerant to us foreigners when she spoke. She led us inside a room full of artifacts. She talked to us about how anti-Semitism started in Germany, and she went over some of the artifacts in that room. We then made for another room analyzing letters from people concerned about the project. We left the campus with Ms. Hooper escorting the group.
After a few hours on the road and a stop at a Subway for lunch, we arrived safely in Monroeville, Alabama. With a plan to just walk around and enjoy the sights of this quaint little Southern town until it was time for dinner, we ended entering a small, local bookstore to browse. How lucky for us that we went in, since we were instantly greeted by the man, Ruban Williams, who was to be our tour guide of the town. He happily agreed to walk around with us right then and there. And what a treat it was! He told us wonderful stories of the powerful and influential Harper Lee (known primarily as Nellie, of course, to the residents of her hometown) and pointed out specific locations in the town square that are referenced in To Kill A Mockingbird. After a far too brief time with the engaging Ruban, we ended our evening with dinner at The Courthouse Café. With stomachs full, we enjoyed another walk around this famous town, with our final destination being The Budget Inn. Though our lodgings for the night are certainly nothing fancy, the history surrounding us is astounding. Almost every single Middle or High School student in the entire United States reads and analyzes To Kill A Mockingbird at some point in their academic career and here we are – the lucky ones experiencing the sights and the history right here in person.
It’s been a day full of embracing and reflecting on history. And the journey continues tomorrow.
On our third day, we travelled from Roanoke, Virginia to Knoxville, Tennessee. We stopped at the site of the World’s Fair that took place in Knoxville in 1982 and explored the observatory level of the giant “Sunsphere” monument. We ate lunch at a local barbeque joint. After we stopped in Knoxville we drove to Chattanooga, Tennessee. We went to the Lookout Mountain and took a walking tour around Rock City, which was enjoyable despite the extreme fog conditions. After we took our tour at Lookout Mountain, we visited the International Towing Museum in Chattanooga where the first tow truck was built.
The Knoxville Sunsphere
The Rock City ‘Stone Face’
Our second day began with a drive from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Roanoke, Virginia along the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. We read chapters four and five of Go Set a Watchman, and, soon after that, we played Frisbee Golf at Roanoke Disc Golf. Following a brisk 9-holes in cold and rather breezy conditions, we took a short ride to Dixie Caverns. Dixie Caverns was filled with hundreds of thousand-year-old stalagmites and stalactites in interesting shapes and forms. After our tour of Dixie Caverns, we stopped at the Roanoke Star overlook, which offered a dramatic view of the Roanoke city lights.
We began our journey south to Harper Lee’s hometown in the place where she wrote both To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman–New York City. Our class visited Washington Square Park and saw the Washington Square Arch. A guide told us about the history of New York University, and how it has developed through the decades. Also, we learned about one of the oldest trees in New York. It was the place where many people were hanged. Our group walked through Greenwich Village, where lots of old houses are situated. We even got to see the house of the famous politician Aaron Burr. Eventually, we’ve made our way to Stonewall Inn, which is a landmark site for the gay rights movement. We learned about the creative and vibrant spirit that characterized the West Village, an energy that drew Harper Lee north during her late twenties.