The morning after our encounter with Vulcan, we were up and at ‘em early so that we could have breakfast and be on the road to Montgomery.
I’m sort of a strict constructionist when it comes to diners. They are a purpose-built diner (preferably with lots of stainless steel) or a converted railroad car. Something in a strip mall, while it may have many diner-like qualities (Formica booths, a counter, plain food, sassy waitresses) is not a diner.
And so, for me, at least, the Salem’s Diner wasn’t a diner. But it was diner-ish. Formica booths, check; counter, check; plain food, check. But it was so small that there was only one sassy waitress. I think there were four booths and as many stools at the counter.
Robert Venturi said, “less is a bore” and this was far from boring.
Ed Salem, a big deal on the University of Alabama’s 1950 football team. He went on to play for a year for the Washington Redskins and in the Canadian Football League.
Cheesesteak claims aside, I loved the atmosphere, in large part due to the gaggle of jolly, aging jocks that seemed to fill every booth and stool in the place.
Our waitress was great too, just the right combo of friendly and sassy.
Bruce and I had eggs, and they were quite good.
Martha’s pancakes, on the other hand, were cold.
I hope that it was just an off day. In theory at least, there are days when neither Alabama nor Auburn wins. Martha’s day breakfast wise, this was one of those days.
The memorial is located on a six-acre site on a hill overlooking the city.
Designed by MASS Design Group in conjunction with the staff of the Equal Justice Initiative, the work is a powerful reminder of America’s sordid record of lynching and racial relations.
When the staff member at the Memorial scanned our tickets, she told us not to take selfies with, or pose with the sculptures. I’m glad that she thought we were young enough to even consider taking a selfie.
Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, an artist from Ghana. It’s of a group of young Africans, nearly naked and straining at shackles, their faces wracked with fear and horror. I thought it was supposed to represent people being sold into slavery. It’s a powerful and disturbing piece, but I wasn’t expecting it since so much of the press I’ve seen is about the larger, abstract portion of the memorial.
People take selfies with this? I shook my head.
COR-TEN steel boxes are suspended equidistant from the ceiling.
If you’ve somehow missed our country’s difficult racial past, it’s going to hit you here.
When you get to the end, visitors are invited to walk up the small grass hill that’s at the center of the memorial. The docent explained to me that instead of the lynching victim being at the center of the crowd, now the viewer would be in that spot, surrounded by the steel memorials to all the lynching victims. It’s another solemn moment.
Dana King, marking the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956.
Hank Willis Thomas and a stone slab bearing the poem Invocation by Elizabeth Alexander.
The central portion memorial is quite powerful, but I think it would have been more so if the sculptural works outside the main body of the memorial had been erected at a different site. I was reminded of Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial and how Ross Perot and others insisted on adding some representational statuary to the ensemble. The abstract work is quite capable of standing alone.
After visiting the Memorial, we went to the EJI Museum which is a short drive away in downtown Montgomery. I was glad that we had purchased tickets in advance. It was crowded. The ticket taker asked for our zip codes and remarked that most of their visitors aren’t from the local area. She reminded us that we weren’t to take photos inside the museum.
The ban on photos had to be about ensuring a good visitor experience when there is a large crowd. (Thank you Google for the photos!) The place was packed. The story the museum told about slavery, the Jim Crow era, and today’s civil rights struggle is shocking at times. I thought I was well versed and informed on the topic, but I was wrong.
Before going the memorial, I read about a lynching that look place in Charlottesville in 1898, just down the road from my old apartment. As horrible as it was, it pales in comparison to the story of Mary Turner, lynched in Georgia in 1918. As the cartoonist Walt Kelly said, I have met the enemy and he is us.