Letter From a Birmingham Museum

[Ed. note: I wrote this post in the summer of 2018, the very first note published as a completely in
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Comments

  1. Ben,

    After reading Letter from a Birmingham Museum when you published it, I re-read it every Jan 20th.
    Thank you,

    Jim

  2. Ben,

    I knew a black lady who grew up in Birmingham during that time and she was one of the children participating in the demonstrations. She said there was always a prayer session before they went out in public to prepare them for what they might encounter. As a little girl she volunteered to do this. She believed there was always the possibility she would be killed, but was still willing to give her life for the cause of freedom.

    Rich

  3. Avatar for alpha2 alpha2 says:

    This is a tremendous essay Ben. I was a Brexit voting individual living in a cosmopolitan part of North London. The media narrative, the local government narrative and the mayoral narrative have all been powerfully in favour of remaining. The vast majority of my social group and neighbours were also ardent remainers. Leavers have been othered and made to feel they were beyond the pale. It is only now with the benefit of hindsight I can see just how hard ‘The Man’ worked to get me to change my mind.

    The French are using power hoses on their opposition at the moment. There is a strong echo of ‘The Man’ in Europe fighting against the natural wishes of countries to determine their own future. A sort of mirror image of segregation.

  4. Thanks for writing that Ben. There is an excellent podcast on the history behind the picture of the boy being (apparently) bitten by the German shepherd. It’s on Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History (Season 2, Episode 4). I just happened to listen to it a week before your note. It gives an alternative and much more nuanced narrative - 30 minutes well spent. I totally get your feelings about going to the museum. It strikes me that Germans have been much more open about their history - one can (and should) visit Dachau for instance. It’s not hidden. Why don’t we have the equivalent of Dachau here? We need to confront the history properly.

  5. Avatar for tobinh tobinh says:

    As someone who grew up in Australia and lives in Iraq, I appreciate these types of ET reflective moments that put it all in perspective. Next time I am in the States, I will take my daughter to see this. I only wish there was an Australian version of this museum that puts our history in perspective with such grace and effectiveness.

  6. Ben,

    I reread it yesterday. Next Sunday I’m giving a member reflection. King’s six page, single spaced, double sided letter is very appropriate, IMO, this week.

    Thank you for your July, 3, 2018 ET commentary.

    Jim

  7. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    Thank you, Jim. And yes, King’s letter is VERY appropriate this week.

  8. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    And I updated the essay to reflect Gladwell’s podcast.

  9. About 1955 I lived in Augusta, GA. One Saturday I got on a bus to go downtown to see a movie. There was just me (a 14 or so year old) and the driver. He had the bus parked, since he had been ahead of schedule. Three GIs from Camp/Fort Gordon got on to make the same trip downtown as me. They paid their fare and went to sit down in the back of the bus. The driver said they couldn’t sit there. They asked why not? He told them, using the term of the time. They said it didn’t matter there was only the five of us. The driver said if they didn’t get up the bus wasn’t moving. With some irritation the GIs moved up. Even as a teenager that had grown up in the south, the stupidity of the situation hit me fairly hard.

  10. Great letter - i am from Germany originally and my wife is American. One day (soon) we will take our kid to visit the Museum in Birmingham. I imagine it must have been similar experience for you as when I visited the Dachau concentration site… one can not fathom how cruel we can be and how quickly our “civilized” society can devolve into madness unless you visit these museums in person. Every country should have such sites to hold up a mirror to themselves…

  11. I had the same feeling when I visited the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Educating and uplifting. Very humbling.

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