I’m sitting in a hotel room in Montgomery, Alabama this morning. It’s just 8 o’clock, and I can feel the waffle maker calling my name from down the hall. . . but once the waffle is gone . . . well, I’m a little baffled about what to do next. . .
I feel caught between times here – two periods that are so, so important to what I am writing and to who I am as a person. I came to Alabama to research the people I have come to love through writing this book. They were moved here from Virginia ostensibly so they could “earn” their freedom by working cotton, but almost none of them were ever freed. I know that when they were finally counted as people, not property, they lived in Greene and Hale Counties, just south of Tuscaloosa, but I don’t know where their plantation was or if they are still there in the community that is listed on the 1870 census as Cedarville. I will see.
But then, I am in Alabama, birthplace of the Civil Rights movement. Even more, I’m in Montgomery, where buses were boycotted and bricks thrown and where another man I never knew but still love nonetheless spoke his words in a little Baptist church that now gives tours to commemorate this time. I am in a place were students sat in and where people walked to work for months in protest of a system they knew was still unjust, even 90 years after the other people I love were freed.
So here I sit, stymied by where I will go. Will I go today, right away, to find these people who could not fight for the freedom they were promised, or will I spend some time remembering those who did fight and fight hard? I’m not sure. I think I’ll let the day lead me.
Whatever happens today, this week, I know I will be changed by being here, amongst the memories of the strong, and the history of people I have come to love, even though I never knew them.