Lowndes County Interpretive Center

The Lowndes County Interpretive Center is run by the National Park Service and I’ve heard really good things about it for a while now (it’s still pretty new – I think it’s been open three years now) so on our last trip from Montgomery to Selma, we went in.

It’s the first of three museums planned on the Selma to Montgomery ‘National Historic Trail’. It only takes about thirty minutes to walk through the Interpretive Center and includes video and audio interviews with people who participated in the walk.

One of the things that was on display was a model of a State Trooper wearing a gas mask looking as if he were about to hit someone with his billy club. My PawPaw’s cousin was a State Trooper (he was AL State Trooper of the year three times) and received special ‘riot’ training. I think I remember him telling me that he was part of Governor Wallace’s anti-terrorism (or something like that) task force. He was with Governor Wallace when they had the famous stand in the schoolhouse door at Alabama, was at the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, investigated bombings, you name it. His sister and I keep in touch and she told me last week about him getting hurt in B’ham when someone threw a brick during the demonstrations. It was uncomfortable seeing that display of the State Trooper like that at the museum, but that’s how history was.

One of the museum’s displays was depicting a tent in a tent city. The sign read that when the Voting Rights Act was passed, many of the people who registered were tenant farmers. When some of the landowners found out that their tenants had registered, they threw them off the land and these displaced people gathered at tent cities where they lived for a year or two.

Another display was about how in 1965 some Lowndes county residents formed their own political party called the ‘Lowndes County Freedom Organization‘ and they used the black panther as their symbol. This became the first Black Panther Party and they had a full slate of candidates in the election of November 1966.

This last pic is of James Perkins, Jr. campaign memorabilia – he became the first black mayor of Selma in 2000 after Joseph Smitherman had been in office for 37 years. That year, Av and I went to first-day Rosh Hashanah services at Mishkan Israel in Selma, and just as services were about to start, we heard a band playing music and coming down the street. It was a parade to celebrate Mayor Perkins being elected! We all got up out of the pews – in our High Holiday finest – and went out on the front steps of the synagogue to watch the parade. We thought it was great!

The museum really is good – and there’s no admission charge, either – I’m wondering what the specific focus of the other two museums the NPS is planning will be.

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