Okay, I am not Waffle House hash browns, but I am being pulled in a lot of mostly exciting directions. I am back in Loxley after two weeks in Montgomery and now have less than 48 hours before I board a plane to Denver for AWP. When I come back, I’ll be here for less than a week before heading to Tuscaloosa, and it gets blurry from there. I very much need a visit to Cincinnati, but the when is a problem. I could pop up from Tuscaloosa after April 25th, and that would work for me personally, but I also need to be there on May 15th, when I am otherwise committed to being in DC. Plus, I’ve been looking forward to my graduation reading on the first Friday of June since my matriculation in 2005. Clearly, I can’t do all three. So what? When? How? I’m trying to figure it all out. What works best for me would probably be to come for the whole week preceding Last Word. That would give me time to make the kind of progress I seek on my project and wouldn’t interfere with my elaborately planned tour of archives. Yet, I know I owe it to the Taft folks to participate in the annual Taft symposium. Maybe there are cheap flights between DC and Cincinnati? Ugh, travelocity says $300, but I can’t really spare that. I don’t want to fall into a vortex of planning, when I really need to be working.
Yes, I’m thinking out-blog. I only wanted to tell you that there is so very much to tell you and so little time right now to do it. Way leads on to way, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to catch you up fully any time soon.
But here are the highlights:
The Civil Rights Memorial Center run by the Southern Poverty Law Center is indeed well worth the $2 admission, as promised by the security guard posted at the walkway entrance to the center. If you find yourself in Montgomery, you should check it out. The very architecture is moving, from the lovely but carefully designed sidewalk approach, to an interactive exhibit that allows visitors to explore virtually the close proximity of rich historical sites clustered in Montgomery. That is to say nothing of the film about the memorial itself and the people and events immortalized by it. After the viewing of the film, I think there was a sense of confusion among the audience, not about the film, but about what happens next. We were so thoroughly engrossed by the material that it was something of a jolt to return to a world of self-guided tours. I lingered first in the front of the center with its virtual exhibit and its wall plaques and biographies of the 40 civil rights martyrs honored outside in the Civil Rights Memorial, then in the hallway leading from the theatre to the shop and exit of the center, that hallway connecting the American civil rights movement to hate crimes against other groups. I was there long enough to see the next group leave the theatre, all solemn, some wiping away tears.
The Alabama Department of Archives and History proved itself thoroughly invaluable. I had viewed a brochure online before coming and so knew of the exhibits and had done some preliminary searches of their catalog, available online, but I was not prepared for the full experience of the archives, the building itself something of a historical monument, the vast richness of the collections, or the welcoming hospitality of the staff. I hope I am able to arrange further return visits to the archives. I could spend the rest of my life working with the materials they have. In just a few days I was able to gather something like one to two thousand pages of potential material to use (don’t worry; little of it is under copyright, and I think I abided by fair use policies), and I didn’t even get to see the papers on the Creek War!
As exciting as all of this is, I very much need a time and a place where I can be still for an extended period of time–preferably with a very, very large desk or lots tables where I can physically spread out my materials. The six-foot table I use at home is far too tiny. I need a room lined with tables, tables with bookcase hutches on them and ample wall space for maps and pictures and charts. Because, oh, how small my brain is that it cannot hold all this universe of materials I want to stitch together!