Morgan County spends the day honoring Dr. King at the Morgan County African American Museum
“It’s been said by many writers that the wealthiest place in the world is the cemetery, because all the dreams, all the potential, all the possibilities are not realized. Isn’t that sad?” lamented Hillman on the porch of the African-American Museum. “We’re here for a purpose. Why can’t there be more people like King”
As Negro Spirituals chimed from a stereo, Hillman takes a minute to express her thoughts on four Civil Rights posters hanging from the exterior walls of the museum. They are motivational posters, the ones you’d see in a history classroom with a snapshot of the Movement above a quote in white text on a black background. These are scenes that teach the generations removed from that era the sobering reality and extent of a vast struggle. For others, they are a not forgotten and ever present memory.
Three children drenched by pressure hoses on a street corner, the water puncturing and bruising the skin of their lower backs as they cry in pain.
“Freedom is not free. Never was never has been. Never will be,” Hillman said. “They had gotten tired of being sick and tired of what was going around them. The racism, the beat downs.”
Three separate entrances to a bathroom facility, one for each gender and, as if placing blacks in a category of inhuman , one labeled “colored.” Above the picture reads “1962,” only 50 years ago.
“They knew change was not going to come by osmosis. You had to actively pursue it,” Hillman said. “It is an awesome period that these men and women sacrificed to accomplish for us. They did it on our behalf.”
Thousands of people gathering for King’s 1963 Freedom March on D.C. and then a shot of a solitary King staring pensively out his jail cell.
“The thing that I loved about Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers is that they had families and that didn’t inhibit them from putting themselves on the line,” Hillman said. “Even when he made that speech, I’m quite sure he thought within himself that he knew he was going to be killed. He willfully, willingly gave himself.”
Inside the museum, Hillman dedicated two rooms for video on King’s legacy, one a documentary and the other a 1978 film with an actor portraying King. The two movies showed the good and the ugly of the Civil Rights movement, the latter opening with riots erupting in opposition to a Memphis march led by King.
In a third room, while the Ebony Magazine exhibit is still on display, the covers of King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, inspire, along with books about the King family, several authored by King himself.
“He was a beautiful person,” she said. “He was set forth at birth in his mother’s womb with a purpose and only he could accomplish it.”
Visitor Dana Gipson said she is always overwhelmed by a sense of history when she visits the museum with her children. “The pictures make you aware of the life challenges they faced and remind you these are people who chose to do the right thing,” she said.
Printed in the January 19, 2012 edition