Jamiles Lartey writes: If one set out to crown a symbolic epicenter for the 400-odd year odyssey of white supremacy in the US, they would be hard-pressed to do better than Montgomery, Alabama.
It was at the statehouse in Montgomery that Jefferson Davis was first inaugurated as the president of the Confederacy in a bid to preserve the institution of slavery and in defense of the inferiority of the black race. It was here too, nearly a century later, that Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat, and a young Martin Luther King launched his first direct action campaign: The Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Indeed the official city seal tells some of this story in ironic juxtaposition, nesting its claim as “Cradle of the Confederacy” inside that of “Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement”.
But there’s a deeper racial history here too, one that often gets buried in favor of the hagiography of leaders and legends like Davis, Parks and King. Montgomery was also for a time the central hub of the domestic US slave trade, and that’s part of why writer and activist Bryan Stevenson thinks is a perfect place for a “new kind of museum” entitled From Slavery to Mass Incarceration that will trace the untoward history of racial capital through generations and simultaneously shine a light on the legacy of US racial terrorism.
“It all begins with enslavement and the ideology of white supremacy and what follows is lynching, segregation, and many of the issues that we’re dealing with today,” Stevenson told the Guardian. [Continue reading…]