Friday, February 27, 2009

The Civil Rights Trail in the Obama Era

Scott Vogel in the Washington Post:
You need to get to the rain forests before they're all gone, and the polar ice caps may have melted by the time you try to see them, but it's Alabama that demands your immediate attention. And by Alabama I mean that place where elegant black ladies of a certain age stand sentinel over the trails through civil rights country.

Really. They're lit from within, these women; they glow as only people can who never thought they'd live to see the day but then live to see the day. And as they gaze out on the landscape of a country facing agonizing choices and certain pain, they haven't a doubt in the world that we'll get through this. After all, we've gotten through far worse.
Vogel enters the Birmingham Civil Rights Institutes, which overlooks Kelly Ingram Park, and finds Yvonne Williams:
Before coming to the institute, Williams spent all of 31 years teaching fourth grade in Birmingham public schools. And still she retired too soon.

"We used to have that poster with all the presidents, you know?" Williams says. "And I distinctly remember this little boy coming up to me one day and saying, 'Mrs. Williams, where is the black one?' I thought, Lord, give the words to say it." She stops for a moment, collects herself.

"I just said to him, 'Maybe in your lifetime.' "

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