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Thursday, March 4, 2010

The fountain at the center of civil rights and the Civil War

Montgomery’s Court Square is dominated by the landmark fountain that stands at the site of Civil War-era slave auctions. No matter which way you look from this spot, you see reminders of major movements in our nation’s history.

The telegram that led to first shots of the War of Northern Aggression, (known to Yankees as The Civil War) was sent from a hidden telegraph office on second floor of the Square’s Winter Building.

Rosa Parks waited at a nearby bus stop for the historic ride in 1955 that led to her arrest for refusing to give up her seat. The Rosa Parks Library and Museum, part of Troy University, is just down Montgomery Street, at the site of this pivotal event.

Dexter Avenue—one of most historic short streets in the US—runs uphill from Court Square to the State Capitol where in 1861 Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President of the Confederate States of America. A little over a century later (1965) the Selma-to- Montgomery march for voting rights for all citizens ended here, highlighted by the “How Long, Not Long” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Midway up the hill, Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from his first and only pulpit at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, also headquarters of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The First White House of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis’ Civil War home while Montgomery was Capital of the Confederate States of America has been preserved with period furnishings, war memorabilia, and some of his personal items. It was relocated from the Renaissance Hotel area, a short walk from the fountain, to its present spot across from the Capitol and adjacent to the Archives.

The story of Alabama’s people is revealed at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, Alabama’s official state history museum. It’s the oldest state-funded archives in the nation and a genealogical research facility, all housed in an impressive marble building completed in 1940.

For more about this historic city, see Montgomery.

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