Dec 2, 2012

Sunday Focus

Advertisement for a Montgomery Slave sale.
     There were news stories in Montgomery this week about the city spending $80,000 to replace the old lights in the pedestrian tunnel that leads to and from the Alabama river and downtown.
     But an article* in the new Smithsonian Magazine puts the old tunnel into terrible context, telling how it was used to transport slaves from ships.
     " They would parade them up the street in chains. White plantation owners and local slave traders would get on the sidewalk. They'd watch them as they went up  the street. They would follow behind up to the circle (at Court Square). And that is when they would have their slave auctions."
                                                              Bryan Stevenson

     The magazine story isn't really about the tunnel, or even about slavery. It's part of a series of profiles of American "Innovators Who Are Rocking The World". And one of them is Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative.
    Stevenson talks with writer Chris Hedges about the emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual connection between slavery and the sentencing of juvenile offenders to life in prison without parole.
    Stevenson is a longtime opponent of the death penalty, and of sentencing kids to a lifetime behind bars.
     Earlier this year, he won a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that it is unconstitutional to sentence those children to life without parole.
     The new multicolored LED light panels the city is installing in the murky old tunnel will be operating by New Years, but they may have a tough time overcoming the magazine's grim reminder that the tunnel was a passageway for more than just bales of cotton.

[* Read the Smithsonian article here.]

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