Etgar 36

Montgomery & Memphis

– Joshua Horwich

This morning, we woke up and immediately started our day with the Equal Justice Initiative’s memorial and museum. The memorial made me think about just how many lynchings occurred in our country. In US history class, we skim over the lynchings, only talking about emancipation and Dr. King at length. However, seeing how only in recent years have counties and states begun taking responsibility for these lynchings has forced me to think about how the government has put its public image over the morality of allowing these lynchings to occur. At the museum, we could see how the nation evolved from the transatlantic slave trade into slavery, segregation, and the modern prison system. It was especially relevant to me because I am from Illinois, where in Cook County, people can often wait in the Cook County jail for years just to have their case tried. We learned about how this waiting and the unfair sentencing leads to modern-day slavery in our prisons.

After EJI, we had some time in Montgomery to get lunch, so I got tacos. After eating my tacos, we got on the bus to drive to Tupelo, Mississippi to see the birthplace and childhood home of Elvis Presley. Seeing exactly where Elvis was born helped me understand what Billy was talking about when he walked us through how music has evolved into what it is today. Seeing how he was born in the country and moved to Memphis helped me visualize the convergence of country music and blues. We got back on the bus to Memphis, where we got to my favorite part of the day.

In Memphis, we immediately went to Beale Street to go to a blues club. While there, we enjoyed the live band playing songs that I consider some of the greatest songs in history. After some singing and dancing, the band asked if any musicians were in the crowd. As a guitar player myself, I immediately raised my hand and was invited onstage to play “Come Together” by The Beatles. Having the opportunity to play one of my favorite songs, which happens to be one of the most famous rock songs ever, on guitar in the birthplace of rock and roll was something that I had never imagined ever doing. When the singer/bass player told me to take a solo, I was excited as I had played this song a million times. Afterward, a bunch of the group members got up and performed songs. It was amazing to see how talented everyone was.

After the blues club, Billy called an audible, and instead of going back to the hotel, we went to visit the Lorraine Motel, where on April 4, 1968, Dr. King was shot and killed on the balcony outside of his room. Being feet away from the site of the assassination of one of the most influential figures in American history was surreal. I found it interesting when Billy began talking about how in 1968, Dr. King was one of the most hated people in the nation. My interest peaked, though, when he mentioned that FBI agents were, in fact,  the first ones on the scene to provide medical assistance as they were actually at the fire station across the street, spying on King at the order of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Overall it was a busy and very fun day covering 3 states!