Southern Culture Tour, Day Two: Taylor Parker

 The Junior Fellows started early this morning by walking along the streets of New Orleans…

Morning in the French Quarter

…with a 6:00am breakfast at Café du Monde. I had the chance to try beignets, French doughnuts that taste much like exquisite thick funnel cakes (with plenty of powdered sugar, of course).  After a quick breakfast we started our day with a trip to Biloxi, Mississippi. Walking along the beach was a bit eye-opening, given that Hurricane Katrina had destroyed the area only a few years before.

We walked along the water, collecting a few shells here and there, and walking out to the end of the pier. After our walk we climbed the Biloxi Lighthouse, a nationally recognized icon. The lighthouse had been damaged during the many tropical storms and hurricanes Biloxi has endured over the last century. Thanks to restoration efforts, the lighthouse continues to symbolize hope to those in the areas most affected by the storms over the years, as well as admired by many tourists.  The trip to the top yielded us a nice view of the coastline.

Junior Fellows at the Top of the Biloxi Lighthouse

Perhaps the highlight of my day was our stop in Monroeville, Alabama. Monroeville is known for being the model town in the famous novel To Kill A Mockingbird. Here author Harper Lee grew up alongside author Truman Capote, a favorite of mine.

Truman Capote Historical Marker in Monroeville, AL

Although neither of their houses are standing, the site of both homes can be found just two blocks from the iconic county courthouse.

Remains of Truman Capote Home, With Harper Lee Home Site in Background

Inside the courthouse, now the Monroe County Historical Museum, we had a first-hand look at THE courtroom around which the plot of Lee’s novel unfolded. I felt as if I were standing on the set of the film adaptation of the novel, a movie I would encourage all to see. It was surreal to look up to the balcony from the judge’s bench and visualize the onlookers awaiting a verdict. This stop definitely helped me decide to give the novel another read.

View From Judge’s Bench

As we continued our journey east toward the Georgia Political Science Association annual conference, the next impressive stop occurred at the spot of Rosa Parks’ protest: Montgomery, Alabama. I cannot stress enough how remarkable it was to see, feel, and immerse myself in the moment that occurred years ago where I then stood: I could see the bus stopping, hear the angry shouts, and feel the tension of Parks’ triumph.

Rosa Parks’ Historical Marker

In the same city stands Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King served as pastor.  A couple of blocks over we visited the city’s civil rights memorial, a simple but bold wall of flowing water, engraved with some of Dr. King’s famous words. This was the heart of the civil rights movement and achievements, and it felt inspiring to soak in the history personally.

Junior Fellows on the Balcony of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church

On the opposite side of the downtown area, however, stands the symbol of the Confederacy.  We saw an elaborate statue and the old Confederate White House, both complete with engraved quotes of praise for the intentions of the Old South. Regardless of historical atrocity, the historical aspect of these cultural landmarks was interesting and something I wanted to see.

To top off our time in the capitol city of Alabama, we trekked to the Capitol itself. Brilliantly lit against the night sky, the building towered over us, once again giving me inspiring chills. An impressive place of work for an impressive job, a job I hope to hold one day.

Junior Fellows at the Alabama State Capitol

And, following a quick stop at F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Home…

Junior Fellows at the Home of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald

…it’s on to Savannah, Georgia. We plan on making it in around 3:00am “tonight,” just in time for a nap before waking up for a big day of conference panels and tours. For now, we’re passing the time with a viewing of To Kill a Mockingbird and a nap.

It’s all in a day’s work for the SHSU Junior Fellows.


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